The dust is settling on May’s clear out of Cameron’s Cabinet, so let us have a look at the new people in post that could impact on landlords’ businesses.
Theresa May – Prime Minister
She made landlords de-facto immigration officers by introducing Right to Rent immigration checks as the longest serving Conservative Home Secretary for over a century, and now the Conservative Party have made her the new Prime Minister.
State-schooled May began her career at the Bank of England, before holding posts at the Association for Payment Clearing Services. Her political life began after being elected councillor in the south London borough of Merton. In 1997 she won the newly created constituency of Maidenhead in Berkshire, which she has held ever since.
One of the first acts of the new Prime Minister has been to reshuffle the Cabinet, starting with the removal of George Osborne as Chancellor, to the delight of many landlords who have been in the line of fire of his recent Budgets.
Philip Hammond – Chancellor of the Exchequer
Hammond was moved from his post of Foreign Secretary to take up residence in Number 11 Downing Street. Entering Parliament in 1997 after winning in the newly created seat of Runnymede & Weybridge, Hammond has held a number of high profile positions including Defence, Transport and Foreign Secretaries.
The independently wealthy landlord gives us some meagre hope that there will be a change of direction in current tax policies, most notably the Clause 24/Turnover Tax that will strip away mortgage interest relief.
We have already written to him to set out the case for a reversal of the most damaging of Osborne’s policies that also include the additional rate of SDLT and higher Capital Gains Tax for landlords.
With the uncertainties of Brexit still gripping the country and Whitehall, the new Chancellor has already today ruled out an emergency Budget. Hopefully this isn’t the only pre-Brexit policy/threat of Osborne’s that the new Chancellor will reverse…
Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
Former Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP now heads up the Department for Communities & Local Government and will take on overall responsibility for the implementation of the recently passed Housing & Planning Act.
On top of this, we will be pushing for the Department to give its support to Bob Blackman MP’s Private Members’ Bill on homelessness reduction, which seeks to end the practice of local authorities advising tenants to ignore Section 21 notices.
One of the newer MPs in the Cabinet, the state-schooled son of a bus driver™ was only first elected in 2010 for the Bromsgrove constituency. A former Managing Director with Deutsche Bank AG, Javid has held a number of important roles since election including Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport, and up until this week Business Secretary.
Damian Green – Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
Veteran MP Damian Green has taken over from Stephen Crabb as Work & Pensions Secretary. The Welsh-born former journalist was first elected in 1997 for the constituency of Ashford. Green served in several shadow ministerial positions while in opposition before he had a 2-year stint as Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice after the 2010 election.
While the rolling out of Universal Credit continues, and LHA rates fail to keep up with rent increases, landlords have quite a bit of interest in the work of the new Secretary.
The Work & Pensions Select Committee published a report on the delivery of benefits and the Government has just responded to their recommendations. The Committee recommended that Alternative Payment Arrangements (such as direct payment to landlords) should be allowed to be made without the need for 2 months of rent arrears to have been built up first. It also recommended trialling an online “landlord portal” for the housing element of Universal Credit. However, the Department for Work & Pensions rejected both recommendations; maybe the new Secretary of State can be persuaded to reconsider…
Greg Clark – Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
The old Business, Innovations & Skills department has been merged with the Energy & Climate Change department, with the new ministerial department being fronted by Greg Clark MP (former DCLG Secretary).
For landlords, the effect that Brexit has on energy efficiency regulations will be of most interest, with infamous EPCs having originated from Brussels policy. The deadlines for upgrading properties to at least an E rating are fast approaching but with no new Green Deal funding there is no real incentive for landlords to improve properties.
This will be an important hole that the new department and Secretary will need to dig themselves out of, and the real worry is that they will remove the protection that landlords will not need to fork out for any upfront costs.
His previous department was not as anti-landlord as the Treasury, so we will also be looking forward on engaging in more proactive work, such as changing how annual gas safety checks are carried out.
Gavin Barwell – Minister of State for Housing and Planning
The new Housing minister replaces long-serving Brandon Lewis, who has now moved to the Home Office as Minister of State for Policing and Fire Services.
Barwell entered Parliament in 2010, representing Croydon Central. Before his election he had held a number of positions within the Conservative party and was a Croydon borough councillor from 1998-2010.
As the new Minister of State for Housing, he will take on primary responsibility for the implementation of the recently passed Housing & Planning Act. Specifically, he will have to work on regulations surrounding electrical safety, client money protection, banning offences & orders, the rogue landlord database, civil penalties and rent repayment orders.
The NLA has worked with Barwell before, in campaigning against Croydon’s Labour council when they sought to bring in borough-wide selective licensing. At the time, he saw landlord licensing for what it is: a tax on tenants. We hope he will bring this same understanding of the private rented sector with him to his new position.
As well as congratulating him on his promotion, we have also requested a meeting to discuss the new Government’s plans for the sector.