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Housing white paper identifies important opportunities to reform housing market

7 February 2017

Responding to the release of the white paper on housing, president of the Law Society of England and Wales Robert Bourns said: "Housing issues strike at the heart of the stability we all want for ourselves and our families, so the aspiration of today's white paper to improve the housing market is welcome."

Key opportunities that will be of interest to the legal sector include improving planning law, reviewing commonhold, and facilitating more stability for tenants.

"Today's white paper puts so many of the issues that solicitors see with their clients on a daily basis front and centre, and is an encouraging signal that the government will renew efforts to tackle some of these challenges," said Robert Bourns.

Among the commitments made or restated in the white paper is a plan to ban letting agent fees and promote longer tenancies and increased stability for tenants.

Robert Bourns continued: "Any steps that remove unnecessary complexity or pitfalls for the more than four million households renting is a welcome improvement."

"Likewise the commitment to reinvigorating commonhold and addressing abuses of leasehold tenure through the Law Commission identifies an area where careful changes could make a real improvement to the operation of the housing market.

“We also welcome the commitment to achieve a comprehensive Land Register by 2030. This will be a important improvement for home buyers and those needing information about land and property ownership."

On the government's intention to speed up planning and consent processes the Law Society urged optimistic caution.

Robert Bourns commented: "The government's desire to increase and speed up house building through improved planning law is really positive, with welcome signals on standardising the approach to assessing housing need, reforming developer contributions and ensuring fit-for-purpose local plans are in place.

"However, the detail of these complex laws must be well thought out, or they risk ambiguity and court actions undoing any gains, as previous attempts at reform in this area have found.

"With each of these areas we look forward to working with the vast expertise and experience the solicitor profession offers, and engaging with government to take advantage of the positive opportunities for reform this white paper offers."

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

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