New planning changes which came into effect this month have been criticised by a renting campaigner. Ajay Jagota, the founder of online claims management firm Veriwise, warned of a “tidal wave of poor quality housing.”
New planning changes
On August 1, planning rules were relaxed, allowing anyone to convert disused shops and officers into homes without planning permission using new permitted development rights.
Research commissioned by the government in 2020 revealed that such developments can offer renters “a poor residential experience”. The research stated: “Permitted development conversions do seem to create worse quality residential environments than planning permission conversions in relation to a number of factors widely linked to the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future occupiers.”
Laws such as the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the Housing Act 1988 and the Homes (fitness for human habitation) Act 2018 exist in order to make sure tenants do not have to live in inadequate rental housing. Despite these laws, a parliamentary report recently pinpointed “inadequate enforcement” of these laws by Local Authorities.
Criticism of planning laws
Jagota of Veriwise comments: “Allowing faster change of use from retail and office space to housing is something I have supported for a long time. It’s a policy which delivers much-needed housing without the need to build on green spaces while also driving the footfall in town centres which will boost their shopping and leisure offer.”
He adds: “But not everyone wins. The research shows permitted development can open the door to poor quality rented housing, as unscrupulous landlords scoop up poor quality buildings on the cheap and convert them into poorer quality homes. This is likely to lead to even more rented properties in need of repairs – and all-too-often not getting them.”
Jagota continues: “One in five rented homes already fail to meet minimum standards. My concern is that without adequate protection these changes risk creating an avalanche of unacceptable housing. But while they are plenty of laws protecting renters, councils seem unwilling or unable to enforce them.”
Veriwise takes on housing disrepair claims on behalf of tenants and the firm negotiates with councils or private landlords to get property maintenance issues fixed and claim compensation for renters from landlords. Veriwise also works with solicitors if landlords do not comply.
Jagota warns: “There are already renters up and down the country enduring a landlord not doing repairs, and wondering when their landlord will fix their leaky roof, electricity or heating and even fearing revenge evictions for reporting a repair. And without appropriate support from their local authorities, their predicament is never going to improve. Veriwise was created to give vulnerable renters some badly needed back-up.”