Proposals to improve transparency and fairness in the housing market were announced in the Queen’s Speech today (21/06/17).
Set out by the Queen in a pared-down legislative agenda, the speech traditionally consolidates the intentions of the government in front of peers, MPs, judges and high commissioners in the House of Lords.
It comes after the recent general election where no party was able to obtain a majority.
The ceremonial event had been due to take place on 19 June but was pushed back due to uncertainty surrounding the Conservative partnership with the Democratic Unionist Party.
One of the key proposals outlined in the speech was the introduction of a Tenants’ Fees Bill.
The scrapping of tenant fees to agents was originally suggested by the Conservative government in last year’s Autumn Statement.
Although government figures indicate that the current average fee is around £223, housing charity Shelter has stated that one in seven renters pay over £500 in tenant fees.
The purpose of the ban, as outlined in the background notes, is to “improve transparency, affordability and competition in the private rental market.”
Key benefits of the bill are also set out, including the growth of competition in the sector as well as a reduction in overall costs for renters.
The notes also highlight that the bill delivers on the Conservative manifesto pledge, to “shortly ban letting agent fees”. (p.59)
However, this proposal was also put forward by the Labour Party, who pledged to “legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants” (p.62), as well as the Liberal Democrats who promised to “improve renting by banning lettings fees for tenants.” (p.61)
As outlined in the notes, the main components of the Tenants’ Fees Bill are:
- Measures to ban landlords and agents from requiring tenants to pay letting fees as a condition of their tenancy.
- Measures to enforce the ban with provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees.
Proposals to help ensure more homes are built was also highlighted as a key issue in the speech, with the Queen stating that these will be brought forward.
Reiterating what was set out in the Conservative manifesto, the background notes highlight the government’s plan to tackle the housing crisis.
- Building the right kind of homes in appropriate places
- Improve affordability by increasing property supply
- Promote transparency and fairness for leaseholders
- Deliver the proposals set out in the Housing White Paper
Consumer markets were also highlighted in the speech, with a focus on the promotion of fairness and transparency.
Further detail on this proposal was provided in the background notes, with a specific reference to the home-buying process. It outlined a government commitment to look at streamlining the process, with an aim to make it “cheaper, faster and less stressful for people when they make the biggest purchase of their life.”
Aside from the housing market, the departure of the EU remained high on the priority list, with eight of the 27 bills relating to the implications of Brexit for various industries.
Other bills included a Civil Liability Bill, an Agriculture Bill and a Data Protection Bill.