Chair and Secretary’s Report

 

 

Annual General Meeting, 15 June 2023

 

 

In the last few weeks a Bill has been published which promises to radically change tenancy relations work more than any development in over 30 years.

The simple words in the Bill: ‘omit Chapter 2,’ on their own, radically change the balance of power between landlords and tenants by abolishing the shorthold tenancy, but there is so much more promised in the Bill, and there will be many more, new, rights requiring enforcement by tenancy relations officers (or officers with tenancy relations duties).

In addition to all the new landlord obligations which we will need to enforce, we finally have enforcement of the Protection from Eviction Act made a statutory duty, and we have the introduction of financial penalties as an alternative to prosecution for offences of harassment and unlawful eviction.

Never will our work have been so important, never will it have been so challenging and never will the case for properly funded tenancy relations services have been so strong.

I’m sure many of you will agree that the demand for our services has already increased significantly since the end of lockdown.  In Sheffield our caseload has increased by way over 50% on pre-lockdown levels.  Whether that is the result of pent up demand during lockdown, the general economic climate, landlord’s anticipation of the re-balance of power or, as seems most likely, a mixture of all 3, it is very likely, that in the run up to implementation of the Renters Reform Act, there will be yet more demand for our services still, with continuing churn in the private rented sector as those landlords not up to the challenge and commitment required by the new regime, choose to leave the sector.

In terms of ATRO activity over the last year, we have:

  • worked with Caroline Hunter and her team on reforms to the Protection from Eviction Act (and sought to capitalise on the opportunity provided by the Renters Reform Bill)
  • supported the work of the Centre for Housing Policy on criminal landlords.
  • provided training for new TROs in Oldham and
  • held a seminar to share learning from the landmark prosecution case taken by Thanet D.C.

We have always maintained that we have an important role to play in influencing policy and legislation in the direction of achieving more justice and accountability in private renting, and it does seem that perhaps now, our voice is being heard and the case, for tenancy relations services, being crucial to consistent and effective enforcement in the private rented sector, will at last be  recognised through the Renters Reform Act.

There is still a long way to go before what is proposed becomes law, but if the proposals are enacted, there will be huge opportunities and challenges for every local authority to carry out their new tenancy relations duties, and to give effect to this momentous legislation.

Dave Hickling, Chair,

Andrew Greathead, Secretary

ATRO, June  2023