Current Campaigning Activity
The RLA is constantly campaigning to improve the private rented sector (PRS), for both landlords and tenants. Here are some of the key issues we are currently engaged in:
Mortgage Interest Relief
The Chancellor announced plans to restrict mortgage interest relief for private landlords to the basic rate of tax, claiming that landlords are taxed more favourably than home owners. An RLA survey of landlords shows that the Chancellor's proposals will mean higher rents for tenants, see repair and maintenance standards slip and stem supply of PRS housing at just the time when demand is soaring.
Click here to view the RLA's written evidence: Submission to the public bill committee considering the Summer Finance Bill 2015 - Clause 24 (restrictions on Mortgage Interest Relief for individual residential landlords)
With the Government intent on welfare reform, and the introduction of universal credit payments from 2013 onwards, the RLA is working to get the best deal for landlords.
Our main concern is how the housing costs element will be paid, and, in particular, the lack of a right for landlords to insist on direct payments once any arrears reach a set amount - currently set at eight weeks. We are also very concerned about the ways in which landlords will be able to obtain reliable information about the progress of tenants' claims.
Longer term tenancies consultation - Get involved
In response to demands for longer term tenancies, the RLA has developed proposals that aim to protect the interests of both landlords and tenants. The Association is currently consulting on its ideas, and very much welcomes input from those involved in the private rented sector.
HMO and selective licensing
The RLA routinely objects to local authority proposals for discretionary licensing and are particularly perturbed at the fee levels imposed. In particular, we want these schemes to be effectively monitored. We are concerned that local authorities often push these schemes through to raise funding to counter austerity cutbacks and for local political window-dressing.
Regulation and the criminals
RLA believes in self-regulation for compliant landlords. We are currently reviewing our stance on enforcement regulation.
To view the RLA's response to the Government's consultation for tackling rogue landlords: Tackling Rogue Landlords and Improving the Private Rental Sector.
Article 8 (Respect for the Home)
Although not widely appreciated we might be facing the end of the assured shorthold tenancy as we know it. It is quite possible that the Courts will decide that assured shorthold tenancies and other mandatory grounds for possession (such as ground 8 for rent arrears) are subject to the Respect of the Home Provisions in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Effectively, landlords would have to give reasons and demonstrate that it was reasonable to evict a tenant in these circumstances.
The RLA is already lobbying Westminster for support on this issue.
Article 4/planning policies for HMOs
We are continuing to campaign against the restrictive planning policies being imposed by over 35 local authorities to restrict new homes in multiple occupancy (HMOs) via Article 4 Directions.
We have been successful at a number of inquiries into local plans. We are now looking at a new strategy to try to challenge these policies nationally including commissioning research on the impact of such policies which discriminate against younger tenants.
Housing supply and finance
This is a key issue for the PRS. As one of six core partners, we are at the forefront of the Homes for Britain campaign urging for an increase in supply of housing and putting housing high on the political agenda for all parties. We have to make sure that small and medium sized landlords whom we represent are also helped. We are seriously worried about the ongoing ability of banks to finance the PRS. Alternative sources of funding are needed.
For example, we are promoting a policy to central and local Government that small plots of land should be made available on similar terms proposed for institutional investment.
The tax system is unfair for private landlords and this is a key problem. We have put forward proposals for reform which would ensure that landlords are treated as deemed traders in the same way as those who rent out furnished holiday accommodation. We also want to see rollover relief for reinvestment of capital gains.
Calls for rent controls, particularly in London, are starting again. We are strongly opposed to any form of rent control.
The RLA works closely with its policy partner, the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) on cross-border issues affecting landlords and the PRS. For instance, a recent joint survey of over 1,000 landlords revealed that over 65 per cent do not support the Government's universal credit proposals.
RLA members can also have joint membership of SAL for just £98-a-year.
The RLA is extremely active in Wales. Currently, the Welsh Government proposes that all Welsh landlords should have to register and those who manage properties should have to be licensed and undergo training.
Given the clear determination of the Welsh Government to introduce these measures we are negotiating about much of the detail to protect good landlords.
The Welsh Government also wants to carry out root and branch tenancy reform. RLA says two major changes affecting private tenants (and landlords) at the same time is simply too much
Other issues of importance
There are a number of other important issues which we are monitoring; including:
Proposed EU Mortgage Directive - We believe that we have succeeded in excluding the buy-to-let mortgage sector from the scope of this directive which, as originally drafted, would have killed the buy to let sector in the UK.
EU proposal to scrap the five per cent VAT rate for energy efficiency improvements - We are working with a group of other organisations to ensure that the UK Government vigorously opposes the EU Commissions attempt to remove the UK's five per cent VAT rate. We believe that if the UK Government must mount a robust defence of this reduced rate of VAT. Otherwise the Green Deal could be thrown into disarray.
Flooding - RLA says flood insurance cover must be available in at-risk areas or it could become unaffordable.
Council Tax for bedsits - RLA is watching the Valuation Office Agency are re-banding bedsits so that council tax has to be paid on each one.