The UK government has unveiled its ambitious Levelling Up White Paper, “a moral, social and economic programme of reform” covering the next decade.
But what does this mean for the property sector and how will it affect both landlords and tenants?
Here we highlight the relevant key points and share what you need to know to remain fully informed.
What is the Levelling Up White Paper?
The government describes the Levelling Up White Paper as “a flagship document that sets out how we will spread opportunity more equally across the UK”.
Covering everything from the skills and health of the workforce to empowering local leaders, it’s an officially published commitment to deliver significant change to all corners of the country.
For landlords and tenants, it’s about giving them both “the opportunity to flourish” with an aim for “people everywhere living longer and more fulfilling lives and benefitting from sustained rises in living standards and well-being”.
Is there anything new in the Levelling Up White Paper for landlord and tenants?
At this stage, details of specific initiatives are rather thin on the ground. This is because a dedicated white paper about private rental reform is due to be delivered in the spring.
After numerous consultations and discussions, hopes that this would be incorporated in the Levelling Up White Paper didn’t materialise.
How does the Levelling Up White Paper impact the rental sector?
One of the “12 missions to level up the UK” contained within the document is to give renters better opportunities to own their own property.
Mission 10 states: “By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas. Our ambition is for the number of non-decent homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.”
The government says this can be achieved via four main initiatives, aimed at “transforming” the rental sector:
Broadening the Decent Homes Standard
The Decent Homes Standard is aimed at ensuring a minimum level of comfort, maintenance and facilities. It currently only applies to social housing offered by local authorities and housing associations.
Now, plans are in place to consult on extending this to also make those standards legally binding within the private rental market.
Introducing a National Landlord Register
There’s only a brief mention of this within the current white paper which states that the idea of establishing a national landlord register will be “explored”.
This would help eliminate rogue landlords and bring England in line with the rest of the UK. Currently, only landlords of HMOs need to be officially registered.
A crackdown on unscrupulous landlords would also focus on ensuring fines and bans stop repeat offenders from taking advantage of tenants and their rights.
Abolishing Section 21
A spring white paper should sign the death knell for Section 21, commonly known as ‘no-fault evictions’. Plans to abolish this controversial legislation were first announced in April 2019 and the Levelling Up White Paper promises to carry through with this “to reset the relationship between landlords and tenants”.
Details about what Section 21 will be replaced with are still unclear but it’s expected that Section 8 legislation will be strengthened, along with an overhaul of the current court system.
Improving housing conditions
The government refers here to a more general plan to “improve housing conditions” including giving residents “performance information so that they can hold their landlord to account”. The overall aim here is to ensure landlords “take quick and effective action to put things right”.
Further details about the processes and consultations required to deliver on these promises will be published in the forthcoming Rental Reform White Paper.
Does the Levelling Up White Paper cover anything else to do with housing?
Within the document, the government recognises the link between quality accommodation and health, both mental and physical:
“Poor housing quality, overcrowding and reliance on temporary accommodation for vulnerable families also contribute to unnecessarily poor health and quality of life for many.”
To tackle this, they propose two main strategies: building more housing, including “genuinely affordable” social housing. And launching a new drive on housing quality to ensure homes are fit for the 21st century.
There’s also reference to diverting government funding for housebuilding on brownfield sites to areas in the north and Midlands, and a programme to improve energy efficiency in the worst-performing homes.
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