From a private rented sector perspective, the Autumn budget was refreshingly dull and technocratic this year, no bombshells. It seems the government decided to pull their rabbits out of the hat at the Tory party conference instead. Sajid Javid had tantalised us with initiatives for longer tenancies, promising to reward landlords who ‘do the right thing’ and a three month notice period for no fault section 21 evictions in England and Wales. While neither appeared in the budget, the government has announced a consultation on the barriers to longer term tenancies. With tenancies lasting on average just under four and a half years according to the English Housing Survey, I long for this mandatory three year tenancy policy cooked up by Shelter and adopted as policy by The Labour Party to be kicked into the long grass. For many landlords, giving the keys to their property to a relative stranger for a mandatory three years and having to wait an average of 42 weeks to gain possession should anything go wrong is a very worrying prospect.
Of course for the good landlords out there, our relationship with our tenants is of vital importance, so we received the news from Sajid Javid that we will be required to become members of a redress scheme with some trepidation.
Just how bureaucratic and burdensome could this be? The ever optimistic Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association (NLA), thinks that the burden will fall on the offenders – that’s to say being a member of the redress scheme could just cost a joining fee and then if your tenant complains to the scheme you will have to pay for the complaint to be handled. Javid also announced that he wants to begin consultation on the establishment of a specialist housing court, the scope of which remains unknown.
The much trumpeted stay on stamp duty for first time buyers of 0% to £300,000 was broadly expected, but so was an increase in the additional 3% stamp duty rate. Thankfully the latter did not materialise. For anybody who was hoping for a quid quo pro where landlords willing to offer longer tenancies in exchange for exemption form section 24 tax changes, again disappointment. The reality is that the phasing out of higher and additional rate tax relief on finance interest payments which has begun in this 2017/18 tax year will – in my view - may last for a generation.