If you have been on a desert island over the last few days you may not be aware that a UK general election has been called for 8 June. Parliament will be dissolved on 3 May.
This will have implications for the private rented sector as a number of measures were in progress and these will now potentially be delayed.
Early examples of this disruption are starting to show. I am speaking at two events next week which have been hurriedly re-arranged because the civil servants who were intended to speak on the Housing and Planning Act and the Homelessness Reduction Bill are now in electoral purdah and so are not able to comment on anything that may touch on government policy.
However there are some more concrete examples:
- The Homelessness Reduction Bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament. However it has not yet received its Royal Assent so that it can become an Act and then be brought into force and no date has been set for that. If it is not done before 3 May then a date will not be set until after the election. In addition the various regulations and other measures which are needed to actually bring it into effect have not yet been circulated for discussion and this can now not happen until after a new Minister is in post. Realistically not before the latter part of June, at best. It had been hoped that some of this would start to come into force so that this desperately needed Bill would start to make changes in the new year. Those timelines are now doubtful.
- While parts of the Housing and Planning Act are in force there were further elements such as the Rogue Landlord database and Banning Orders which were expected to come into force in October 2017. Again regulations were expected shortly to start the process of making this happen and the IT project that underpins the database was also in progress. Again these are now trapped without a Minister to push them forward for the next month. Again the October deadline must now be in doubt.
- The Housing and Planning Act also included provisions about Client Money Protection and Electrical Safety. There were no further consultations expected in these areas but there were working group reports which needed approving and regulations were again to be drafted to implement the reforms. Yet again this will be at risk of delay.
- Finally, there is an open consultation on banning letting agent fees. This was to be supported by workshops commencing at the end of April. All of these workshops have now been cancelled although the consultation itself will continue and will close before the election. However, there is now a possibility that the entire policy will be lost if a new Housing Minister has other things which capture his attention more strongly.
These are but a few examples. The entire direction of government housing policy, recently set out to a degree in its new white paper will now be in question again. No doubt, assuming the current government is returned to power many of the elements already in place will continue but it is almost inevitable that the cabinet will have some new faces and they may have alternative ideas about housing. At the very least it will create delay and cause uncertainty in the PRS well into 2018.