You have to watch the Tories like a hawk. Their latest gimmick is a review of a series of housing regulations under the guise of their ‘Red Tape Challenge’. As if it were all a little joke, Baroness Hanham (the Lords’ CLG Minister) ‘is asking people to vote out policies they think are the weakest links’ in the country’s housing laws. Everyone is invited to look through a long list of regulations and make suggestions as to what should go.
The danger in this exercise is illustrated by the Government’s examples of the ‘unnecessary red tape’ that they have already removed, which includes for example regulations on houses in multiple occupation and the supposedly liberating sections of the Localism Act.
Over 200 housing and construction regulations are covered by this latest red tape challenge – see the list here – covering the private rented sector, social housing, construction and building regulations. You are asked to comment on whether they should be scrapped altogether, changed from a regulation to a voluntary code, reformed or left as they are.
The problem with this kind of jumbo exercise is that the Government will get out of it what it wants. In the long list are important provisions protecting private or social tenants or building stndards that they will no doubt want to remove under the cover of having consulted in this meaningless way. We complained once before that the Government had included the whole of Equalities legislation in a single red tape challenge exercise – showing precisely how important they think equalities is.
Glancing down the housing list, most of the regulations mean little to me and they will sound technical and even trivial to most people. For example, I have no idea why there are so many Assured Tenancies (Approved Bodies) Orders, but some of our readers may be able to say why they matter. It would be surprising if there was nothing in the list that could and should be scrapped, but it is worth remembering that most will have been introduced to further a specific objective or to solve a particular problem.
Regulations included in the list cover issues such as:
- the procedure covering demoted tenancies
- protection for social tenants when a registered provider becomes insolvent
- the forms of notice to be served on secure tenants when the landlord seeks possession
- the suitability of accommodation offered to homeless households
- the procedure governing registration as Commonhold land
- the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders, and
- the management of houses in multiple occupation.
All of these are important issues in housing and most of the ones I have cited will be important to retain. But the device of reviewing all of them at once as part of a Cabinet Office exercise means that the eyes of the housing world are unlikely to be focused on any of them until, Bingo!, the Government concludes that a particular one should be removed or amended, which will probably be bad news for tenants somewhere.
So – a task for a night when sleep is avoiding you – have a look at the lists and see which of these regulations, if removed, would have a serious adverse effect. Then bung in a response to firstname.lastname@example.org saying briefly why it matters and why it should be retained (or strengthened). Then at least the website won’t be dominated by Tories and the Government won’t be able to say that there is no opposition to their conclusions.