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Graham Awards


Michael Gove has finally done something sensible

It’s not a sentence that I thought I would be writing, but Housing Secretary Michael Gove has indeed finally done something sensible.

After several career catastrophes - supporting Brexit and Boris Johnson, claiming Britain had had enough of experts, and most recently inflicting damage on the lettings industry through the Renters Reform Bill - there’s finally a notch on the other side of the board.

It’s small but important: on behalf of the UK government he’s talking to the Scottish and Welsh governments about making a law change consistent across all of Britain. 


My point isn’t about the law change in question (that’s whether agents and landlords can have blanket bans on tenants on benefits or those with children) - instead, my praise is because Gove recognises the good sense in applying housing rules throughout Britain.

And why do I think this important? Because, as it stands, current regulation of the rental sector is a bugger’s muddle of council, national government and UK government rules which are inconsistent, contradictory, confused and thus often near-unenforceable.

Let me give some obvious examples.

Even before the Renters Reform Bill becomes an Act, there are over 168 individual pieces of UK Parliament legislation already regulating the private rental sector according to the National Residential Landlords Association - and that includes those well-known modern statutes, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1730 and the Distress for Rent Act 1737.

At national government level of Wales and Scotland there are additional laws, which by definition apply only within those nations.

Most notable amongst these are the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 which dramatically changed the Welsh rental sector so much that even tenants have new titles, and tenancies are now known as contracts. Equally ‘different’ to the rest of the UK is the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022, under which Scottish landlords and agents must live with rent controls and an eviction ban not applying anywhere else in Britain.

Then there is the local authority tier. As is often reported on Letting Agent and Landlord Today, there are nationally-applicable laws regarding HMOs but these are topped up in some (but not all) local council areas by Additional Licensing.

Up next comes Selective Licensing, introduced as part of the Housing Act 2004, which allows some councils - but not all - to insist that every private landlord within a designated area of the council boundary to be licensed. Some councils do this with enthusiasm, others not at all, meaning there is absolutely no uniformity.

Let’s not leave Airbnbs and other short lets out of this.

For in London there is a maximum of 90 nights that a property can be short let for; elsewhere in Britain this limit does not apply, although in parts of Scotland there are control zones which exercise different limits on short lets.

This growing sector of the housing industry is likely to be subject to a further patchwork of controls too. 

A consultation document published in April by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities proposes the requirement of planning consent for an existing home to start to be used as a short let.

But the consultation also considers another option - whether to give owners flexibility to let their home for up to a specified number of nights in a calendar year without the need for planning permission.Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the planning changes would be introduced through secondary legislation and would apply in England only.

There’s one more part of this bizarre flurry to factor in - the inconsistent funding of enforcing this patchwork of regulation.

Some local authorities like Tower Hamlets in London allocate large sums to enforcement through the Trading Standards team and boast of hundreds of property inspections and court cases against miscreant landlords; other councils have treated enforcement as one of the first to cut when looking to balance their budgets. In those latter councils, rogue landlords can prosper with only the most negligible chance of being caught.

So that is why I think Gove’s move to apply a least one piece of housing legislation uniformly across Britain is important. If it works for one policy why wouldn’t it work for all?

And if it worked for all policies, wouldn’t that be easier than the current blizzard of good laws and red tape, some of which applies in Cumbria and Northumberland but not a few miles away in Dumfries and Galloway?

And wouldn’t landlords, agents and tenants alike prefer the simplicity of the same regulations applying in Herefordshire as well as nearby Monmouthshire?

Go on Michael. Make it work. Make it sensible.

  • Barry X

    Don't be daft... if Gove really wants (and actually succeeds) in applying laws uniformly it will be the WORST OF THE WORST that ALL of us will be saddled with!

    Don't be a fool and make the mistake of trusting this man or any of his colleagues or ever giving any of them the benefit of the doubt...

    Think about it... the second paragraph of this article clearly states "...he’s talking to the Scottish and Welsh governments about making a law change consistent across all of Britain..."

    ...let's think... what could that mean?

    I suggest it means he's disappointed that only Scottish landlords have to suffer from the dreadful laws that - very luckily for us in England - only apply (for now) in Scotland, and similarly he doesn't like the fact that dreadful Welsh legislation only blights the Welsh rental market (for now)...

    I expect his intention is to be thanked by hoards of ill-informed and highly entitled young labour-voting tenants for doubling-up the damage by combining the worst of socialist Scottish and socialist Welsh laws and making sure they are INFLICTED UNIFORMALLY THROUGHOUT THE UK!

    The writing's been on the wall for long enough, and more has been added since... perhaps now would be a good time to start reading and understanding some of it.

  • Proper Estate Agent

    Aww the authors come out as a remoaner.. professional, impartial creditability out the window.....
    "After several career catastrophes - supporting Brexit".


    Let's be honest, whethet people chose to remain or leave, overall it has pretty much been a disaster so far.

  • icon

    I am sure that most people understand that no situation is so bad that a politician cannot make it worse. Harsh words but look back through history.


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