2016 was a monumentally busy year for Shelter. It was our 50th anniversary, but we hardly took a moment to acknowledge it.
As the Housing Bill made its way through parliament, we were there every step of the way – squeezing in as many demands, changes and concessions as we could get. The hard work made a big difference.
With the help of our brilliant Shelter supporters, we’ve managed to win a series of huge changes that are set to help fix the housing crisis and improve the lives of millions – particularly people who rent their home. Here they are:
Private rented sector:
Ban on letting fees: After three years of relentless campaigning on this, the government has agreed to ban all upfront fees to tenants, saving people hundreds of pounds. This wasn’t part of the Housing Bill, but came shortly after!
Introducing electrical safety checks: The government has committed to regular electrical safety checks for rented homes. This brings them up to the same standard as gas safety, and will improve conditions for renters.
Banning rogue landlords: Renters have gained stronger legal protection from rogue landlords. People and companies can now be banned from being a landlord or letting agent. If someone breaches this ban, they could be sent to prison.
Creating a register of rogue landlords: There will now be a blacklist of rogue landlords, including landlords who have committed offences and people who have been banned from being a landlord. We’re arguing that this register should be public so people can avoid renting from a rogue landlord.
Rent repayment orders: Tenants will be able to claim back rent that they have paid to a rogue landlord if they have been harassed; if their landlord hasn’t complied with a council notice to improve their home; if their landlord has breached a banning order or if their landlord doesn’t have a license for their property.
Financial penalties for rogue landlords: The amount that councils can fine landlords has been significantly increased to £30k. What’s more, councils are likely to be able to keep this money to invest it back into housing and enforcement.
An end to ‘DIY evictions’: Renters can’t be evicted for ‘abandonment’ unless the landlord has verified with a third party (e.g. a guarantor) that they have left the property. This will end ‘DIY evictions’ and people being kicked out of their home for simply not replying to a landlord’s e-mails.
Client money protection: Letting agents must now legally protect the money they take from renters and landlords. This means that if an agent goes bust, no money is lost. This brings renters in line with buyers, whose money has to be legally protected by estate agents.
Retained protection for homeless families: We successfully lobbied to keep protections for homeless families in the homelessness reduction bill and avoid plans to withdraw support from some families.
‘Pay to stay’ abolished: After our campaigning, the government has now abandoned their plans to charge higher earning social tenants market rents.
More money for affordable homes: The government have doubled the affordable homes budget for the second year in a row.
Forced council sales: We won a legal commitment from the government to replace any council homes sold off 1-for-1, making sure that each replacement was some kind of affordable housing. This will be 2-for-1 in London. In promising news, plans are now on hold for a year anyway – we hope that the government concludes the whole policy is a bad idea.
Council tenancies: The government wanted to reduce council tenancies to 2-5 years, but after our campaigning they have now extended this to 2-10 years, with exemptions for disabled and elderly people. Families with children will get a 2-19 year tenancy, which will cover the period in which they have children in school.
As always, our work isn’t finished. There is still a lot left to fix in the current housing crisis – but these small, piece-by-piece wins do lead to systemic change. Next year, we’ll focus on introducing longer rental contracts to provide renting families with more stability, make sure the letting fees ban is fully implemented, and push for homeless families to be treated properly by local authorities.
We can’t create the changes the housing system needs without your valuable support, so please join us as a Shelter campaigner. There’s lots you can do to help.