Latest News

Universal Credit update

13 November 2018

With Universal Credit (UC) being in the news so frequently, it's easy to loose track of recent changes and advice. So, to help you, we've highlighted some of the key messages from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and provided links for further information. Read More...

Government announces proposals for new Housing Court

13 November 2018

The Government has launched a consultation which looks at reforming the routes to justice for both landlords and tenants, with the most radical option being to set up a new Housing Court. Read More...

Selective Licensing lowdown

12 November 2018

Selective Licensing and Additional Licensing schemes continue to be adopted by local authorities across the country, despite evidence that suggests they simply do not work. We take a look at few of the most recent ones that have either come into force or will be coming into force shortly, and tell you what we're doing to help you understand them. Read More...

What did the Autumn Budget 2018 hold for housing?

Monday 29 October 2018

This year's Autumn Budget was probably one of the most anticipated in recent years, as it sets out the domestic policy and fiscal measures direction ahead for the UK ahead of Brexit.

The Chancellor sold the budget as a "budget that paves the way for a brighter future" saying that the era of Austerity is finally coming to an end, and that the country now has a new future outside the EU. He also said that, if necessary, he would extend the 2019 Spring Statement into a full fiscal event. 

With the Government spending much of their time and resources on finalising their Brexit deal, it was a budget relatively devoid of fiscal measures which will directly affect the private rented sector, with perhaps the biggest announcement coming in relation to Universal Credit. 

As was widely predicted ahead of the budget, the Chancellor bowed to intense pressure from MPs on all sides as well as pressure groups and membership organisations, by announcing an extra £1 billion of funding over the next five years to help aid the transition from areas that have still yet to make the move from the old benefits system to the new benefits package that is Universal Credit. Hammond also promised "additional protection" for those moving onto UC, adding that more details will follow later this year. Work allowances will be increased by £1,000 per annum. 

The original plan was that Universal Credit would be fully introduced by 2017, but roll-out has been pushed back several times, with the Full Service – the final, digital version of UC, available for all claimant groups – now not expected to be operational throughout all parts of the United Kingdom until December 2023.

From April 2020 the Government will limit Lettings Relief to properties where the owner is in shared occupancy with the tenant, and reduce the final period exemption from 18 months to 9 months. 

Chancellor Hammond also announced a financial package aimed at boosting the UKs high streets, which will include £900 million in business rates relief, cutting business rate bills by a third for almost half a million small businesses.  A further £675 million co-funding injection (aptly named the Future High Streets Fund) is set to be introduced over the next four years and will allow towns and cities to redevelop under-used retail space into homes and offices, providing help to restore High Street properties and put historic buildings back into use. He said it would help with the housing challenge whislt increasing footfall in town centres.

Gary Harper. CEO of Propertymark Industry Supplier, Reapit said: “Cutting business rates by a third for smaller businesses could be beneficial to estate agents in the small and mid-sector by helping them to retain their high street presence. However, this may not be enough in isolation with high street spending ever reducing and fewer property transactions resulting in potential losses amounting to £4 billion annually for estate agents. There is more compliance than ever across the lettings sector and more types of relief may be needed or we could continue to see increasing consolidation, as is already happening.”

Enterprise, the workplace and taxes

Apprenticeships - An additional £695 million package to support apprenticeships, which includes halving the levy that smaller firms pay, bringing it down from 10% to 5%. 

Employment Allowance - From April 2020, Government will target the Employment Allowance, which was introduced to incentivise businesses to take on employees, at small and medium sized business with Employer National Insurance Contributions bill of under £100k a year. 

Further measures included:

  • Extend start up loans funding to 2021, meaning more people wanting to go self-employed can benefit from low interest loans  
  • From April 2020 off-payroll employees (IR35) will be subject to same level of tax and those who are employed in a similar role for the same employer. 
  • Raise the Personal Allowance to £12,500, meaning that 32 million people will pay £130 less per annum, and the Higher Rate Threshold was increased to £50,000.
  • National Living Wage to rise to £8.21 in April 2019
  • Freeze in fuel duty
  • NHS 10-year plan will include a new mental health crisis service

The sales market

The Chancellor biggest announcement relating to the sales market was that stamp duty relief would be extended to include first-time buyers of shared ownership properties under £500,000. 

Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark commented on this shortly after the budget:

“When the Government announced a stamp duty holiday for FTBs in last year’s Autumn Budget, we said that it was a sticking plaster which did not tackle the wider problem of rising house prices, lack of affordable housing and supply of suitable homes in the UK. Today’s news that this relief is being extended retrospectively to include FTBs in shared ownership properties is unlikely to have any material impact. Our data shows that so far in 2018, 26% of property transactions involved FTBs. This was the same figure as that for the whole of 2017, showing that it hasn’t had a real impact so far, and therefore is unlikely to make a real difference moving forwards.

 “Instead of focusing solely on those buying their first home, the Government needs to look at the whole system to ensure it’s working effectively for all buyers, and there are suitable homes for everyone.”

Other key measures taken to address housing supply and planning were:

  • Consultation on simplification of the process for conversion of commercial property into new homes
  • Increased business rate retention from 2020, giving local councils greater control over the money they raise
  • Removal of the Housing Revenue Cap
  • Funding to empower up to 500 neighbourhoods to allocate or permission land for housing, through the Neighbourhood Planning system, for sale at a discount to local people
  • A further £500m for housing infrastructure fund, which will unlock 650,000 homes. Local authorities bid for a share of the pot, which is designed to deliver new physical infrastructure to support new and existing communities and make more land available for housing in high demand areas, resulting in new additional homes that otherwise would not have been built
  • The Government will respond to Oliver Letwin's report on land and planning in the new year
  • Family homes will be not be subject to Capital Gains tax

Infrasructure

  • Increasing the Transforming Cities Fund to £2.4bn. The fund aims to improve productivity and spread prosperity through investment in public and sustainable transport in some of the largest English city regions. 
  • Providing an additional £90m to trial new models of smart transport, including ‘on demand buses’

Devolved Governments

  • An additional £950 million will be given to the Scottish Government, plus £150 million for a Tay Cities Deal
  • An additional £550 million will be given to the Welsh Government, plus £120 million for the North Wales growth deal
  • An additional £320 will be given to the Northern Ireland Executive, plus £350 million for Belfast City Region Deal