Times 100 Panellist Jan Luba QC invites Cinderella to Law Reform Ball

Tuesday 16 January 2007

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The newspaper highlights (in the Law supplement) his contribution to a survey of the laws most in need of reform. He wrote:

"The most urgent need for reform in the property sector relates to the legal arrangements for residential letting in both the private-rented and social housing sectors. The present law is hopelessly complex for both landlords and tenants, and the judges and tribunals who have to resolve disputes between them. That complexity has a real cost: both tenants and landlords suffer uncertainty about their rights and obligations and over frequently need legal advice; unscrupulous parties on both sides exploit the uncertainties; the county courts are clogged-up with unnecessary possession claims which are really debt-collecting exercises for tenants with modest arrears; and the legal aid fund bears the burden of securing protection for the most vulnerable occupiers.

How, after all, would a tenant and landlord readily understand which "species" of tenancy they had? The portfolio of possibilities includes: assured shorthold, introductory, secure, protected, full assured, demoted, unprotected, excluded and many others. The terms and conditions on which tenancies are held are infinitely varied and the cause of much confusion.

Happily, sanity is capable of being easily restored. The Law Commission has recently finished a comprehensive review and come up with draft legislation in a draft Rented Homes Bill. This will enact a simple, comprehensive and standardised legal regime for the letting sector. Landlords will know and understand their obligations. Tenants will know whether they can be secure in their homes and enforce their rights.

The reform is politically "neutral" (representing no change in the underlying balance of the current law as between landlord and tenant). It will transform a "mess" into a clear legal regime.

All that is needed is the political will to invite this Housing Cinderella to the Law Reform Ball."


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