The Queen’s speech, delivered to Parliament on 10 May 2022, set out the programme of legislation which the Government intends to pursue in the forthcoming Parliamentary session. So, what is in store from a property perspective?
The focus is certainly on residential property and the following are things to look out for:
Social Housing Regulation Bill
The purpose of this bill is to increase social housing tenants’ rights to better homes and enhance their ability to hold landlords to account. The Regulator of Social Housing will have increased powers to intervene when landlords are performing poorly, inspect landlords to ensure that they are delivering quality accommodation and services and new tenant satisfaction measures will allow tenants to see how their landlord is performing compared to others, so we are likely to be seeing “league tables” of social housing landlords. The Regulator will also be able to carry out quick inspections (with only 48 hours’ notice) where there are concerns about the decency of a home, and, in certain circumstances to carry out emergency repairs. This is no doubt a response to, not only the Grenfell tragedy, but also issues which have been in the press recently regarding exempt accommodation providers and the poor record of certain social landlords with regard to carrying out repairs.
All social housing landlords will need to be preparing to review their policies and procedures to ensure that they are able to comply with any new requirements and to avoid being subjected to the Regulator’s new and increased investigatory powers.
Renters Reform Bill
There is also an impact on PRS landlords from the proposals announced, which include the following:
- Abolition of s21 “no fault” evictions
- Reforming possession grounds and strengthening grounds which deal with anti-social behaviour and recurrent rent arrears
- Applying the Decent Homes Standard to the PRS
- Introducing an Ombudsman who can resolve disputes without the need for court proceedings
- A property portal will be introduced to help landlords know their obligations and to give tenants information to hold their landlords to account
Some of these suggestions have been on the radar for some time, and indeed, Wales has already abolished the s21 procedure, so that may well provide the blue print for how this will be managed in England. It is worth bearing in mind though, that in certain circumstances, a landlord will have good reason, and sometimes an obligation to recover vacant possession of property, when there may not be any “fault” ground available, such as the tenant of a mixed use property who wishes to exercise a break clause for which they must be able to give back vacant possession. Landlords will therefore need to plan for this potential change to come into effect over the course of this Parliament.
Landlords will also need to be careful to ensure that they do not fall foul of any enhanced requirements regarding property condition and also be aware of the requirements of any new “portal”. Suggestions are that this is likely to be quite comprehensive although exactly how it will work has not yet been published.
An increase in home ownership is a target, and it is clear that extending the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants is being considered. Although no further specific legislation has been announced regarding leasehold reform, this is still high on the agenda, and indeed, the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 comes into force on 30 June 2022. The Government have announced an intention to remain committed to further reforms, including empowering leaseholders to make it easier to extend their lease, buy their freehold or take control of the management of their building; greater transparency on costs, and the banning of new leasehold houses as well as looking at alternatives to leasehold.
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
One interesting announcement which is likely to impact on commercial property is the intention to give local authorities the power to bring empty properties back into use by instigating rental auctions of vacant commercial properties. The details of how this will work in practice have not been announced, and as ever the devil will be in the detail. An eye will need to be kept on the exact requirements in order to identify properties which are truly vacant, how the complexities of real estate law will be managed, and whether this proposal really will lead to a levelling up and regeneration of our high streets.
It remains to be seen what these reforms will look like in detail and when they will come into effect, but those likely to be affected should bear these proposals in mind when planning for the future.