Eviction Bans -it's a difficult one for the Government.
It has made the provision of more (and presumably reasonably affordable) rental and privately owned housing one of its top priorities. It knows that at the next Election, its record on housing will be crucial to its chances of remaining in power.
And yet, none of its new ideas and schemes have been exactly quick off the mark. Any successes, whether the 24,000 or 30,000 new houses delivered last year (it's still an increasing figure), are instantly measured against the increasing levels of homelessness, shortage of private rental accommodation and mixed outcomes of its own policies.
Take the 'eviction ban' this past winter (due to expire in 2 weeks' time). It did not ban landlords taking action to evict defaulting tenants (though the only legal route to this, vis the Residential Tenancies Board, is slow and cumbersome. Was it really a good move to remove the Courts from this area, back in 2004?). Rather, it extended the (considerable) notice periods for termination notices where the landlord sought back possession to either occupy the property itself, or else to sell the property - where all indications are that the sale value of a house or apartment without a sitting tenant is much higher than with a tenant in situ. The real effects of that 'eviction ban' were to kick down the road the intended sale of previously tenanted houses and apartments, as we will see in the coming months, and doubtless to cause other landlords, who feel they might need the property in the next year, to live-in or to sell, to act quickly now, and serve a termination notice, for fear that next winter will see another ban. And of course, the media has been predicting a veritable tsunami of evictions in the coming months - not good news for tenants. A house or apartment thus sold is not in fact lost to the housing market, it just seems that most of these sales are to owners/occupiers - actually, I'd like to see the figures on that. The Government, and opposition, should welcome an increased availability of dwellings for owner/occupiers, if it wasn't for the fact that these properties are then gone from the private rented sector. Helping to solve one problem but making another worse!
The Minister for Housing is considering a pre-emption right for sitting residential tenants, giving them a first option to buy 'their' property if it is being sold by the landlord/owner. There's a lot to tease out here:
- How many tenants want to or could afford to buy?
- Must a landlord market and do a deal to sell a property, and then stop and offer the property to the tenant? Who pays for this work?
- What time is given to a tenant to exercise the option to buy, and to prove it has funds, and to complete the purchase. What happens if these time limits are not met, by whoever?
A lot of thought and expertise will no doubt go into trying to come up with a practical, workable scheme to deliver housing to tenants able to move onto the property ladder, while at the same time delivering a timely sale to landlords wanting or needing to sell. There's many a slip between a politician having a bright idea and actually rolling that idea out successfully, and without unintended adverse consequences. Good luck to the Minister here, I think he'll need it - success at the ballot box might depend on it!
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