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Landlord ordered to pay tenants more than £140,000 in compensation

Michael Gove

Michael Gove has slammed one of Britain’s biggest social landlords for letting tenants down.

The housing secretary told L&Q: “You have failed your residents”. He also called the chief executive of housing provider to a meeting after the housing ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay tenants more than £140,000 in compensation.

The move follows a special investigation revealed it was “dismissive” of tenants and found “severe maladministration”, including in tackling disrepair and antisocial behaviour.

L&Q, which rents out more than 105,000 homes in England, primarily in London, the south-east and the north-west, “failed to consistently identify damp and mould” as a key problem, disregarded its own antisocial behaviour policy and presided over “a period of significant failure” as a landlord, said Richard Blakeway, the housing ombudsman.

Responses to complaints were marked by “a lack of listening” and were “overtly dismissive, heavy handed and lacking in respect” in some cases, the ombudsman said. There was a “repeated failure to respond fairly to vulnerable residents, especially where the resident had a disability or mental health problems”.

Richard BlakewayBlakeway said his special investigation into L&Q found that “resident concerns were repeatedly dismissed or poorly handled, without the respect they or their issues deserved. Crucially, the needs of vulnerable residents were not always identified, and too often this caused serious detriment and risk to them”.

He said: “The landlord consistently failed to take sufficient action on its own monitoring and warning signs that were evident in its complaints and independent reviews – leading to a prolonged period of decline, especially in areas like repairs and complaints handling. Rather than address the core issues, the landlord continued to firefight individual issues.”

In a letter to Fiona Fletcher-Smith, the chief executive of the association, Gove said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed” to discover the landlord’s failings had caused residents

“unacceptable” and “prolonged periods of distress”.

Fiona Fletcher Smith“This is unacceptable,” he said. “You have stopped listening to your residents’ voices, and failed to deliver the service that they should expect … in some cases you were described as having been ‘heavy handed’, ‘dismissive’ and even ‘callous’ and ‘confrontational’ … You must take immediate action to remedy these severe failings.”

Fletcher-Smith said: “My senior leadership colleagues and I are personally contacting the residents whose complaints the ombudsman judged to have involved service failure or maladministration on our part. We have apologised for the completely unacceptable service they have received. L&Q has let them down, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

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Before election, UK’s Sunak recommits to housing promises

Before election, UK's Sunak recommits to housing promises

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recommitted on Monday to promises to boost homebuilding by the next election to tackle a lack of housing stock that has alienated many younger voters who pay high rents and are unable to buy.

With a national election expected next year, Sunak’s governing Conservatives have witnessed a collapse of support among younger voters, who are frustrated at being priced out of owning their own homes and are struggling with high childcare costs.

Housing has long been a contentious area for the Conservatives. Some of its lawmakers in rural areas do not want to see an increase in building while those in more urban regions want more homes built quickly.

Sunak and his housing minister Michael Gove said they would concentrate new house building in urban areas while protecting the countryside.

“Today I can confirm that we will meet our manifesto commitment to build 1 million homes over this parliament,” Sunak told reporters, using a term that refers to the time between the 2019 election and the next vote.

“We won’t do that by concreting over the countryside – our plan is to build the right homes where there is the most need and where there is local support, in the heart of Britain’s great cities.”

Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee said the government was on track to deliver 1 million new homes by the next election, but was not forecast to deliver another promise to build 300,000 net new homes per year by the mid-2020s, largely because of uncertainty over planning policy reform.

On Monday, Gove recommitted to the 300,000 net new homes pledge, which excludes housing replacing existing residences.

The opposition Labour Party, which is way ahead in the opinion polls, has said that it will “back the builders, not the blockers” as it seeks to reform the planning system to improve housebuilding rates, including in rural areas as appropriate.

Gove said the long-term plan for housing underpinned the government’s plan for economic recovery, with urban regeneration the most important component and any new plans agreed with communities.

The plans include a new urban quarter in Cambridge to boost its role as a science hub — a plan that Conservative lawmaker Anthony Browne immediately criticised, saying in a tweet there was not enough water for existing housing.

“Unless the government can say where the water will come from, its plans are dead on arrival,” the South Cambridgeshire lawmaker said. Gove said he was sure he could win his backing.

The housing plan is the latest attempt by Sunak to reduce Labour’s large poll lead after an unexpected victory in a so-called by-election just outside central London on Friday offered him some breathing space.

Housebuilding has long been dogged by delays and red tape. In June, British house building fell at the sharpest pace in more than 14 years apart from two months early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as higher borrowing costs dampened demand and weighed on the broader construction sector, a survey said.

Labour criticised the Conservatives, saying they had a nerve to “make yet more promises when the housing crisis has gone from bad to worse on their watch”.

Gove said Labour’s plans for the economy would fuel inflation.

“I’m confident we’re on a trajectory to reach that 300,000 target,” he said, describing Labour’s approach as “the ingredients of an acid which would corrode the foundations of economic recovery”.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Alistair Smout Editing by Nick Zieminski and Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Michael Gove calls for delay in rented housing energy efficiency plans

Michael Gove

Housing secretary Michael Gove wants the government to ‘relax the pace’ of EPC reforms expected from private landlords.

In a Sunday Telegraph interview yesterday, following the Uxbridge by-election, Gove indicated that the timetable for changing minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented housing would be altered.

In January 2021 the government closed its consultation on minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented housing. It proposed that by April 2025 all new tenancies would need to be for properties with an energy performance rating of C or better and applied to all private rented housing by April 2028.

It also proposed a national cap on the amount landlords would need to contribute to improvements of £10,000.

But in a write up of an interview with the Housing Secretary, the Sunday Telegraph writes: “In his own policy area, Gove wants to relax the current rules that will ban landlords from renting out their homes unless they pay to increase the Energy Performance Certificate rating of their properties by 2028, which could include spending thousands on fitting a heat pump, insulation or solar panels.

“My own strong view is that we’re asking too much too quickly. We do want to move towards greater energy efficiency, but just at this point, when landlords face so much, I think that we should relax the pace that’s been set for people in the private rented sector, particularly because many of them are currently facing a big capital outlay in order to improve that efficiency.”

Ben BeadleResponding to comments by Gove, suggesting a delay to energy efficiency proposals for the private renter sector, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, expressed concern.

He commented: “It is over two years since the government completed its consultation on energy efficiency standards in rented homes. As a result of the delay in responding to this, there was never any hope of meeting the originally proposed deadlines, as we told the Minister earlier this month.

“The NRLA wants to see properties as energy efficient as possible, but the sector needs certainty about how and when this will happen. Ministers need to develop a proper plan that includes a fair financial package to support improvements in the private rented sector. We will continue to work with all parties to develop pragmatic and workable proposals.”

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Gove to relax rules in England to allow more shops to be converted into homes

Gove to relax rules in England to allow more shops to be converted into homes

Housing secretary’s plans aim to address the housing crisis as he says country must make ‘better use’ of buildings

Michael Gove is planning to change planning laws to pave the way for more home extensions and conversions of shops into houses in England in efforts to address the housing crisis.

As part of plans due to be announced on Monday, the housing secretary said new rules will be drawn up to give greater freedoms to carry out property extensions and to open up lofts.

Officials said the proposals will allow families to expand their home as their family grows while still ensuring neighbours’ interests are protected.

New flexibilities will be introduced to allow shops, takeaways and betting shops to be turned into living spaces, with Gove arguing that Britain must “make better use of the buildings we already have”.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the proposals to relax rules around the use of retail space is designed to help rejuvenate high streets and provide greater density of housing in inner cities, rather than encouraging urban sprawl.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said the announcement was a “drop in the ocean” that failed to address the scale of the housing shortage.

Gove, in a speech in London on reforming national permitted development rights, is also expected to announce that the Conservative government will cut rules limiting barn conversions and the repurposing of agricultural buildings.


Before his speech, Gove said: “Britain needs more homes to fulfil more dreams of home ownership and increase choice for renters.

“But they must be of the right type and targeted in the right places.

“So we must build more in the places that make sense – in our inner cities so that we protect our countryside.

“And we must make better use of the buildings we already have – empty shops or offices cannot be gathering dust while we have an urgent need for more homes.

“That is why we are reviewing the rules around permitted development rights to make sure we can regenerate, build and grow.”

The announcement comes only two weeks after a cross-party panel of MPs warned that Tory ministers are unlikely to deliver 300,000 new homes each year after making the target advisory rather than mandatory.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, decided in December to downgrade the target’s status to see off a brewing Conservative backbench rebellion.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee, in a report published earlier this month, said its inquiry into the policy change had seen it told that the six-figure target would be “impossible to achieve” by the mid-2020s.


Clive Betts, the Labour committee chair, said Sunak’s decision was “already having a damaging impact on efforts to increase the building of new homes”.

Labour’s Nandy has already announced plans to make it easier to build on unsightly parts of the greenbelt if Keir Starmer is elected prime minister at the next election, expected to be held in 2024.

Responding to Gove’s announcement, Nandy said: “Britain desperately needs more homes, but another review is a drop in the ocean compared [with] what is needed to fix the housing crisis.

“We don’t need more reviews or press releases, we need bold action to get Britain building.

“That’s why Labour has set out plans to reform the planning system to build the homes we need.

“We will restore housing targets, reform compulsory purchase rules and take the tough choices to back the builders, not the blockers.”

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Labour abolishes pledge to introduce rent controls

Lisa Nandy

Labour has scrapped a pledge to introduce rent controls if it wins the next general election – after endorsing the policy last year.

Lisa Nandy said last September that she wanted to give local authorities the power to freeze rents, telling the party conference: “Doing nothing is not an option.”

But speaking yesterday, the shadow communities secretary described the approach as a “sticking plaster” and claimed it would increase homelessness.

“When housebuilding is falling off a cliff and buy to let landlords are leaving the market, rent controls that cut rents for some, will almost certainly leave others homeless,” she told the Chartered Institute of Housing’s 2023 gathering of industry professionals.

Abandoning the policy represents a major shift in thinking for Labour, which has promised the regulation of rents in all its manifestos since Ed Miliband was leader.

Responding to the confirmation from the shadow housing secretary that Labour has rejected calls for rent controls, which has prompted an outcry from Labour’s left, with campaign group Momentum accusing the party leadership of being “allergic to good, popular policy”, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, welcome the announcement.

He said: “We agree with Labour that rent controls would do nothing to address the rental supply crisis that tenants across the country now face.

“What renters need is a proper plan to boost the supply of homes for private rent alongside all other tenures. Housing benefit rates should also be unfrozen without delay to support vulnerable tenants who are struggling to access the rental market.”

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