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House price index, LA licensing and enforcement, damp and mould warning, support for the homeless and other property news

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The house price index is a sure indicator of trends in the market and the publication of its state of play at the end-of-year featured in many UK property news headlines – just as you might expect.

But developments in the private rented sector also attracted their fair share of attention as stories circulated about local authority licensing schemes and their powers of enforcement, specific concerns about damp and mould in let property, and further government funding directed towards alleviating homelessness.

Let’s take a closer look behind some of those headlines.

Nationwide House Price Index – December 2022

The house price index maintained by the Nationwide Building Society confirmed the downward trend that has characterised the UK housing market since the final quarter of last year:

  • for the fourth month in a row, the rate of growth continued its decline – marking a further 0.1% fall in December, following a 1.4% drop in average prices in November, and resulting in a 12-month increase to the end of the year of a mere 2.8% (the corresponding figure for the year to the end of November 2022 had been 4.4%);
  • the overall result was a drop in average house prices of 2.5% from the peak reached in August last year – the most significant fall in prices since those recorded in 2008;
  • the declining rate of growth was felt across all regions of the UK, the Nationwide’s figures show;
  • the effects were most noticeable in the southwest of England, where the annual increase in house prices fell from its high of 12.5% to just 4.3% by the end of the year;
  • Scotland recorded the worst market performance – with house prices rising by just 3.3% over the whole of 2022;
  • East Anglia, by contrast, performed relatively strongly by showing an average increase of 6.6% in house prices in the 12 months to the end of the year;
  • in Wales, growth slowed from an annual high of 12.1% in the third quarter to finish the year at just 4.5%;
  • in Northern Ireland, average house prices rose by 5.5% during the course of 2022.

The difference between the strongest and weakest performing regions was the narrowest it has been since the building society began its index in 1974.

Propertymark: Licensing schemes and local authority enforcement concerns

In a press release on the 30th of December, letting agents’ and landlords’ pressure group Propertymark questioned whether local authority licensing schemes do what they are claimed to do in raising the overall standards of accommodation in the private rented sector.

The group argues that licensing schemes can prove expensive for landlords and may be an ineffective way of tackling anti-social behaviour by tenants, or managing the problems of low demand or of long-term empty properties.

Propertymark is especially critical of local authorities’ licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), fearing that over-regulation may end up denying the availability of this low-cost housing to low-income families and suggests that the planning system might be a more efficient way of managing the operation of such housing.

Glasgow council warns landlords over damp and mould

In Scotland, The Herald newspaper on the 2nd of January revealed that more than 1,500 official notices have been issued by Glasgow City Council in the past few years warning private sector landlords of dangerous levels of damp and mould in let properties.

The warnings are made by way of Statutory Nuisance notices issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, explained the newspaper story, and although the number reached a peak between April 2018 and March 2019, 150 have already been issued in the current financial year to the end of March.

Minister reveals millions more to fund PRS support schemes for homeless

The government is stepping up its financial support to help councils across England combat the incidence of homelessness, reported Landlord Zone recently.

The Christmas announcement promised up to £654 million in funding to help local authorities support families at risk of eviction and homelessness and those who might otherwise be sleeping rough.

Council will be able to use the funds in discussions and negotiations with landlords and also use it to provide temporary accommodation or to furnish a deposit for a new home for vulnerable families and individuals in danger of becoming homeless.

Together with a further £24 million to help domestic abuse victims who have been made homeless, the new funding provision is part of the official £2 billion of public money aimed at tackling rough sleeping and homelessness.