Landlords ‘glad to see the back of’ register as Shapps scraps Labour red tape

10 Jun 2010

Policy area: Residential

Housing minister Grant Shapps has scrapped a residential landlord register planned by the previous government, in a move welcomed by the British Property Federation.

Responding to parliamentary question this morning from Sunderland MP Julie Elliott about plans for future regulation of the private rented housing sector, Shapps said he “wouldn’t be taking forward any of the regulatory agenda”.

He added that the current balance between landlords and tenants rights was about right.

The plans for a landlord register were produced by the Rugg Report, produced nearly two years ago by York academic Julie Rugg. Labour had planned to take forward the plans despite criticism that they would be ineffectual and costly to the housing sector. Shapps’ declaration that the plans were no more is likely to be warmly received across the board.

However, when pressed, Shapps also confirmed he would not unravel the controversial houses in multiple occupation (HMO) rules which seek to crack down upon homes shared by more than three people. The HMO restrictions introduced by former communities secretary John Denham give councils power to refuse landlords the right to rent homes to more than three un-related people. The move was dismissed by property bodies and the NUS, with fears that it could create a nimby’s charter in areas that desperately need HMOs to house students as well as immigrants, key workers and anyone else unable to afford to buy.

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Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, said:

“Rather than grasping the moment, successive Labour housing ministers prevaricated, cherry-picked and ultimately manipulated the report for their own political ends, which in the end meant that what we had was pointless. The blame for the death of the Rugg Review lays not with the current coalition, but with the previous Government. Rugg delivered a thoughtful report and balanced package of measures nearly two years ago.

“It is therefore understandable Grant Shapps wants nothing to do with it. Landlords had lost all confidence in the ever more complex ‘simple’ registration proposals, and will be glad to see the back of them. It would be a pity, however, to also jettison a number of sensible recommendations, for example extending self regulation across the agency sector, which has the support of agent, landlord and tenant representatives. These at least deserve a fair hearing, before the Minister decides what next.

“The importance of the private rented sector at this juncture cannot be stressed enough, with two out of every three new households at present finding their first home in the sector. There a number of issues stacking up that need the new Government’s urgent attention: encouraging future investment from institutions and individuals, HMO planning constraints, returning choice to local housing allowance, tenancy deposit scheme compliance. The easy part of being in power is getting rid of the last lot’s policies. The harder task is developing your own. There is so much potential in the private rented sector to help expand housing delivery, which ultimately is good for tomorrow’s renters and buyers. We therefore look forward to working with the new Government to deliver a private rented sector that is attractive to investors and delivers quality homes.”