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Policy

Taking Control: a Financial Capability Strategy for NI

Housing Rights Service welcomes the publication of the draft strategy. Through membership of the Financial Capability Partnership (FCP), Housing Rights Service is represented on DETI’s Financial Capability Forum and has been involved in the strategy’s development. Housing Rights Service is keen to continue to work with DETI and the FCP on the development and implementation of the strategy.

This response looks at the vision and priority areas for action contained within the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment's Financial Capability Strategy.  

Housing Rights Service is particularly pleased that Financial Inclusion has been identified as a priority within the strategy. However, it is very disappointing that none of the practical areas for action relate specifically to promoting Financial Inclusion.
 
We are strongly of the opinion that the NI Executive must take the lead in identifying the issues and working with stakeholders, such as local financial institutions and housing providers, to ensure its citizens are financially included.

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Policy, Affordability, NI Assembly

The Department of Finance and Personnel has launched a second stage consultation exercise seeking views on a proposed way forward for rates support from April 2014. The changes are needed as a result of the UK government’s decision to remove the council tax element of housing benefit in Britain and the rate rebate element in Northern Ireland.

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Policy, Affordability, NI Assembly
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The Department for Social Development released its Housing Strategy "Facing the Future" for consultation in October 2012. With little fanfare, the Department has now published an Action Plan to deliver this strategy.  The plan sets out a number of objectives and actions for the next four years (to 2017) and includes the key themes originally proposed in the consultation paper:

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Social Tenancies, Private Tenancies, Policy, NI Assembly

Response to the DFP Consulation Paper on the Review of Rates Liability for the Landlord Sector

Although Housing Rights Service supports the Government’s aim to simplify the rules governing rate liability in the private rented sector, we nevertheless do not believe the proposals as presented in this consultation paper will provide any significant clarification. In our view, the proposals only go a small way to simplify these complex arrangements i.e. they remove only one element regarding the criterion relating to the frequency of rent payments.

Even if the proposals are adopted, rates collection will remain difficult to administer and, in our view, confusion will still exist in regard to liability in rented accommodation. Given the complex nature of rating legislation, we believe a better outcome could be achieved by DFP having more discussions with key stakeholders to sort out the confusion that exists on who is liable for paying rates.

We hope in the future, where landlords default on their arrangements to pay rates as set out in tenancy agreements, tenants will no longer be prosecuted for rates liability where they can prove the payment of rates. We welcome the commitment to review this issue and to consider a long term solution to the problem of rates collection in the landlord sector.

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Affordability, Landlord, Policy

In a briefing to the Assembly’s Committee for Finance & Personnel on 5th June 2013, Housing Rights Service warned that proposed changes contained in the Department for Finance & Personnel (DFP)’s Review of Rates Liability for the Landlord Sector will not make much of a difference to our clients.

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Private Tenancies, Policy, NI Assembly

The Hidden Costs of Private Renting in Northern Ireland - An Investigation into the Practice of Letting Charges

The hidden costs of renting private accommodation in Northern Ireland have been revealed in an undercover survey carried out by Housing Rights Service.  A ‘mystery shopping’ survey of 40 lettings agents across Northern Ireland found that upfront fees of as much as £100 were demanded by some agents to cover routine services such as credit checks and general administration costs. This was on top of a deposit (normally one month’s rent) and a month’s rent in advance.

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Affordability, Policy, Practical tips, Private Tenants Forum

Review of Rates Liability for the Landlord Sector

The consultation paper seeks views on proposed changes to clarify the rules covering landlord liability for rates. It is argued the current rules are complicated to administer and difficult for landlords (owners) and tenants (occupiers) to fully understand who is legally liable for rates on rented property.

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Private Tenancies, Policy, Landlord, NI Assembly

Towards Financial Inclusion, the expansion of credit union financial services for low-income households

We have become increasingly aware of the large extent of high-cost, sub-prime lending in Northern Ireland and of the disproportionate effects such lending can have on low-income households. With this in mind, research was commissioned into the way in which NI Credit Unions currently serve low-income households and into their potential to expand their outreach within the low-income market in the future.

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Policy

Amendments to Clause 69 of the Welfare Reform Bill (Bedroom Tax)

The Bill is being considered by the NI Assembly over the coming months. Housing Rights Service is particularly concerned about the negative implications of introducing under occupancy penalties commonly referred to as the bedroom tax. We are against the implementation of this provision within Clause 69 and recommend that the Assembly does not introduce it. If this is unavoidable, we have recommended some amendments in an attempt to lessen its impact.

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NI Assembly, Policy, Welfare Reform

Response to Reviewing Support for Repair and Housing in the Private Housing Sector

We are encouraged that the Department is reviewing the current system which has become largely ineffective due to the discretionary nature of the scheme and lack of investment. Any new scheme will have to take into account the financial difficulties many owners are facing and the problems many experience in accessing and servicing loans. Housing Rights Service is in general agreement with the proposition to simplify support arrangements for repair and improvement and to provide for more flexible forms of assistance which meet the particular needs of applicants.

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Private Tenancies, Policy, Landlord

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