22 Feb 2020
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson carried out a reshuffle of his cabinet, telling ministers they must ‘repay the trust of those who voted for us in large numbers in December’.
The biggest reshuffle news was the resignation of Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer just weeks before the first Budget of the decade. Javid has been replaced by Rishi Sunak, former chief secretary to the Treasury.
Another change came in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), with Esther McVey replaced as the Minister of State for Housing and Planning.
McVey leaves the role after seven months, reviving questions about the continuity in the role and the importance attached to housing by the Cabinet.
The new Housing Minister is Christopher Pincher, MP for Tamworth, who becomes the 19th politician to hold the post in 21 years.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, retains top spot in MHCLG, while Luke Hall keeps his role as the department’s junior Under-Secretary.
Here are three key talking points about the new Housing Minister, the reshuffle and how letting agencies could be affected.
Will new Housing Minister take a more favourable PRS approach?
Christopher Pincher, who has spent many years working for the Foreign Office, may appear to have no experience in housing.
However, a glance at his parliamentary voting record shows he might be more supportive of letting agencies and landlords than some ministers.
In the past, he voted against the tenant fees ban and also voted in favour of reducing taxes on property transactions.
There has been plenty of government action around the private rented sector in recent years – including the introduction of a 3% stamp duty surcharge and the reduction of buy-to-let mortgage interest tax relief – which some claim has stalled the market.
For letting agencies, too, there has been a rise in regulation, most notably the Tenant Fees Act, Right to Rent and mandatory Client Money Protection.
Regulation can be positive in increasing industry standards and professionalism, but it needs to be well considered, easy to understand and effectively enforced.
The industry looks forward to the new Housing Minister taking a holistic approach to regulating the PRS and engaging with all key property market stakeholders throughout.
Continuity of Robert Jenrick can be viewed as a positive
Despite the unsettled nature of the Housing Minister role, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – has stayed the same.
Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark, will continue as the top Cabinet minister at MHCLG – a position he has held since last summer, a positive for the industry.
Jenrick has been making his mark on the role in recent months, with several announcements on policies such as discounted homes for local first-time buyers and a possible revival of a mansion tax.
When it comes to the rental sector, Jenrick made his mark in January by announcing surprise proposals for an overhaul of the government’s model tenancy agreement, to not unduly discriminate against pet-loving Britons, many of whom rent.
Jenrick plans to remove restrictions on ‘well-behaved’ pets from the model tenancy agreement to ensure more landlords are ‘catering for responsible pet owners’.
Jenrick has proved himself to be active during his time as Housing Secretary so far. Now the industry will hope that he works closely with Christopher Pincher to implement upcoming policies effectively and efficiently.
Plenty of PRS issues for MHCLG to tackle in coming months
Pincher will have a lot to deal with in the coming months, particularly concerning the rental sector.
Alongside the tightening of existing legislation such as the Tenant Fees Act, mandatory Client Money Protection and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards, there are a range of new measures to be finalised.
In that category, his most significant job is likely to be overseeing the introduction of the Renters’ Reform Bill, which includes measures for lifetime deposits and the removal of Section 21.
There is no timetable for this Bill yet, but it’s well-known the government is keen reform the evictions process quickly. It will be up to Jenrick and Pincher to get the Bill moving through Parliament.
On top of this, mandatory electrical checks in rental properties are set to be introduced from July, with the aforementioned changes to the model tenancy agreement also in the pipeline.
With so much to achieve, the industry will now hope that Pincher remains the Housing Minister for longer than his predecessor.
Whether we have more Housing Ministers or not over the coming years, one thing for sure – the evolution of the PRS is likely to be a central theme of their work.