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Levelling up the private rented sector, buyers keen on London, and landlords wanted!

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Headlines this week have focussed on the government’s so-called levelling up plans which finally saw more light of day in the White Paper released by Michael Gove MP on the 2nd of February.

Many UK property news stories have inevitably reflected the ambitions of the government to level up across every sector of life in the UK – including housing in the private rented sector.

“No-fault” Section 21 notices scrapped under levelling up plans

Although the abolition of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 has been on the cards for some time, the White Paper now includes the proposal as part of the levelling up plans, explained Mortgage Solutions on the 2nd of February.

Parliamentary briefings have explained that Section 21 of the Housing Act allows landlords to repossess their let property from assured shorthold tenants (AST) – the most common type of tenancy – without the need to demonstrate any fault or shortcoming on the part of the tenant. That is why the clause is known as “no-fault” grounds for repossession.

The government recognises the arguments against such no-fault evictions because of their “detrimental effect on tenants’ wellbeing” and the reluctance of tenants to ask for repairs or challenge a rent increase for fear of being evicted.

Relieving tenants of such fears and giving them greater security of tenure has now been adopted as a levelling up objective.

Levelled up housing standards

The levelling up objectives have also incorporated government targets for achieving Decent Homes Standards across the board – including the private rented sector – explained a posting by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) on the 2nd of February.

However, the NRLA takes exception to this use of the Decent Homes Standard, arguing that significant differences persist between social rented housing and that in the private rented sector.

Crackdown on rogue landlords

Continuing the theme of levelling up within the private rented sector, Landlord Zone on the 4th of February identified the inclusion of a crackdown on rogue landlords – those who are flouting the rented housing laws and regulations.

The story argued that details about the way the government’s levelling up ambitions remained fairly thin on detail it nevertheless recognised that one potential target is the setting up of a national register of landlords.

London pips Cornwall to end the year as most searched for buyer location

In other news, the online listings website Rightmove suggests that the tide might have turned for the pandemic-driven flight of home-hunters from big cities including the capital.

At the beginning of 2021, for instance, Cornwall overtook the capital as the most searched for location for homebuyers and it remained that prime hotspot throughout May to September. As further evidence of a drift away from London during the successive lockdowns of the pandemic, Devon was the third most searched for location in 2021, while Bristol came in fourth place and Glasgow fifth.

By the end of the year, however, London had resumed its traditional place at the top of the leader board for the most searches by those looking to buy or rent a home.

The unusual circumstances of the recent pandemic meant that particular locations appeared especially sought-after at various times of the year. Searches featuring Marazion in Cornwall, for example, shot up by 198% in the wake of its bid to become the country’s smallest city. Meanwhile, Rhos on Sea in Wales, was another hotspot – receiving 9 times more searches (an increase of 858%) than it did in 2020.

Landlords needed urgently: can the market keep up with tenant demand?

The demand for rental accommodation has reached new peaks across the country yet a shortage of landlords for that rented accommodation is in short supply, warned an article by the Buy Association on the 2nd of February.

The woeful imbalance between supply and demand has arisen for a number of reasons, suggests the article but there is no getting around the fact that the availability of rented accommodation is in short supply.

On that supply side, many landlords have taken an increasingly dim view – and have found it more and more challenging to make a profit – of ever-increasing regulation of the buy to let industry. The removal of tax relief on mortgage interest repayments was just the first blow for many landlords who saw still further restrictions impinge on their business.

As a result, increasing numbers decided to capitalise on the significantly escalating value of their properties and sold up.

As far as demand is concerned, the trend has followed a consistently upward curve for many years. The age of the first-time buyer has been forced upwards, leaving many in longer need of rented accommodation. More and more adults are also living alone these days. Demand continues to grow.