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Landlords have been accused of “holding parliament hostage” with the threat of selling up to stop tenants’ rights from being strengthened.

A fresh row erupted on the eve of the controversial Renters Reform Bill coming to the House of Lords for its second reading, as one landlord group warned of a supply crisis in the private sector.

Analysis of government data by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) found that in the last six months of 2023, 45% of people in need of homeless prevention support said the reason was because the property owner planned to sell.

This was more than twice as much as the next most common reason, which was landlords planning to re-let the property.

Separately, data from Rightmove found that 50,000 rental properties are needed to bring the supply of rental homes back to pre-pandemic levels.

The NRLA said landlords need “confidence to stay in the market” and warned peers against attempting to strengthen the reform bill to give renters more rights, after MPs in the Commons watered it down.

They said the data comes in the wake of concerns being raised by campaign group Generation Rent, who have warned that landlords selling up is a leading cause of homelessness.

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But Generation Rent accused the NRLA of “cynically” using their concerns “to hold parliament hostage to the idea that they will sell up over even the smallest strengthening of tenants’ rights”.

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One million renters forced to move

Ben Twomey, chief executive of Generation Rent, said: “Long term, if landlords sell up it makes little difference to the housing market.

“Bricks and mortar do not sink into the ground, and the home could be bought by another landlord, a first-time buyer or even repurposed for social housing.

“There will always be some landlords wanting to sell, for example because they are retiring or because their mortgages have become too costly.”

‘Relocation relief required for renters’

Mr Twomey said the short-term issue is that “tenants have an appalling lack of protection when landlords choose to sell up”.

He called on ministers to incentivise homes being sold to existing tenants if they can afford to buy, or incentivise selling homes with sitting tenants so they can stay in the property if it changes ownership to a new landlord.

The campaign group also want landlords to be prevented from selling a property for two years after a tenancy has begun, and a relocation relief for renters evicted through no fault of their own so they don’t need to pay for the final two months rent while they look for a new home.

Why are landlords selling up?

The NRLA said there are various reasons for landlords selling up but the key issues are growing costs and uncertainty over the Renters Reform bill.

The legislation, intended to redress the power balance between renters and landlords, has been mired in delay and controversy with the government heavily criticised for diluting some of its flagship proposals, including the ban on no-fault evictions.

First promised by the Tories five years ago, the ban has been delayed indefinitely pending court reforms, in what has widely been seen as a concession to landlords.

Read more:
Almost one million renters given no-fault evictions
More than 100 MPs earn over £10,000 a year as landlords

Peers urged to ‘rescue’ reform bill

The Renters Reform Coalition, which includes Generation Rent, has called on peers to “rescue this watered down bill”, saying it is a failure in its current form and “will preserve the central power imbalance at the root of why renting in England is in crisis”.

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The RCC want a package of reforms including the end of no-fault evictions, four months’ notice when they are evicted rather than two and limiting in-tenancy rent increases in line with inflation or wage growth.

As well as insecure tenancies, renters are facing soaring rents and poor conditions amid a wider housing crisis which at its heart is a problem of insufficient supply and spiralling affordability.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, acknowledged the wider problems and said that “all parties need to accept widespread calls for policies to boost supply in the private rented sector”.

He added: “Landlords selling up is the single biggest challenge renters face. The only answer is to ensure responsible landlords have the confidence to stay in the market and sustain tenancies.

“As peers debate the Renters (Reform) Bill, it is vital that it works for landlords as well as tenants. As it stands it would achieve this balance. We are calling on peers to support the Bill to give the sector certainty about the future.”

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Indian pharma group readies swoop on anti-smoking aid Nicotinell

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Indian pharma group readies swoop on anti-smoking aid Nicotinell

An Indian pharmaceutical group is closing in on a deal to snap up Nicotinell, the anti-smoking aid, from Haleon, its FTSE-100 parent company.

Sky News has learnt that Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories could be within days of acquiring the brand and a number of lesser-known European products from Haleon.

Sources said a deal was likely to be announced as soon as this week.

It was unclear on Sunday how much Dr Reddy’s might pay for the Haleon-owned assets, although it is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds.

Should it be completed, it will be the latest in a string of acquisitions for the Indian- and US-listed company.

Dr Reddy’s has a market value in New York of about $11.7bn, having been established in 1984.

In Britain, the company has had a presence since 2002, and includes commercial offices and a research and development centre in Cambridge.

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It also operates an active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing site in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.

Dr Reddy’s has been in talks for months about acquiring the Nicotinell brand from Haleon, the over-the-counter products giant spun out of FTSE-100 drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

Haleon, which has a market capitalisation of close to £29.5bn, is chaired by the former Tesco chief executive Sir Dave Lewis.

GSK sold its remaining stake in Haleon earlier this month.

Haleon owns some of the most recognisable over-the-counter healthcare brands in Britain, including the multivitamin supplement Centrum, Panadol pain relief tablets and Sensodyne toothpaste.

Nicotinell, which is sold in patch, gum and lozenge form, is said to be the second-largest nicotine replacement therapy product globally.

Its prospective sale will come days after Rishi Sunak’s administration failed to pass his flagship anti-smoking bill after he called a surprise summer general election.

Haleon declined to comment.

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FTSE-100 housebuilder Persimmon weighs £1bn bid for rival Cala

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FTSE-100 housebuilder Persimmon weighs £1bn bid for rival Cala

One of Britain’s biggest housebuilders is exploring a £1bn takeover bid for Cala Group, a rival player in the sector which has been put up for sale.

Sky News has learned that Persimmon, which has a market value of £4.74bn, is leaning towards submitting an offer for Cala ahead of a bid deadline next week.

City sources said it would be a strong contender to buy Cala, whose homes have a significantly higher average sale price than those of Persimmon.

Insiders expect Cala, which is being auctioned by Legal & General (L&G), to command a price tag of about £1bn.

If Persimmon is successful in the auction, it would mark the York-based company’s biggest acquisition for years.

Under Roger Devlin, its chairman, and chief executive Dean Finch, the company’s share price has rallied by over 20% in the last year.

In a trading update last month, Persimmon said it was on track to deliver growth in new home completions this year to up to 10,500.

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The Cala auction comes amid a general election campaign in which new home provision is expected to figure prominently.

Both main parties are likely to set out new policies to stimulate housebuilding growth, according to sources.

Analysts said this weekend that other housebuilders were also expected to consider bids for the L&G-owned company.

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These could include, they said, Persimmon’s larger rival, Taylor Wimpey, and Avant Homes, which is owned by Elliott Advisors and Berkeley DeVeer.

Persimmon is the UK’s third-largest housebuilder by market capitalisation, behind Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments.

Both Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey were among eight housebuilders named by the Competition and Markets Authority in February over suspicions they had exchanged commercially sensitive information.

A takeover of Cala by another major housebuilder would underline fresh momentum in the industry’s consolidation, after Barratt Developments unveiled a £2.5bn deal to acquire rival Redrow.

The prospective sale of Cala represents the first significant strategic move by its new chief executive, Antonio Simoes.

Bankers at Rothschild are overseeing the auction.

Mr Simoes described Cala as “a very strong business” during an earnings call earlier this year on which he was quizzed about the housebuilder’s future ownership.

L&G took full control of the business in 2018.

Cala reported a slide in half-year profits last autumn, citing a “challenging market”.

The company has a long-term goal to build 3,000 homes annually.

Persimmon and L&G declined to comment on Saturday.

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Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells admits removing reference to Horizon IT system from Royal Mail prospectus

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Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells admits removing reference to Horizon IT system from Royal Mail prospectus

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has admitted to amending the legal document Royal Mail issued to would-be investors before it became publicly owned to remove mention of the flawed Horizon IT system.

Data from the accounting software created by Fujitsu was used to prosecute more than 700 sub-postmasters for theft and false accounting.

Many more victims lost their homes, livelihoods and good reputation to repay non-existent shortfalls.

Now the inquiry set up to establish a clear account of the introduction and failure of Horizon has heard during Ms Vennells’s third and final day of questioning that she removed “at the very last minute” reference to Horizon from the prospectus Royal Mail issued before it was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A prospectus is a legal and financial document detailing key information for potential company investors.

It was the first time the issue was raised with Ms Vennells.

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Paula Vennells breaks down in tears again

She said: “It was flagged to me that in the IT section of the Royal Mail prospectus, there was reference to – I can’t remember the words now – but risks related to the Horizon IT system… the line that was put in said that no systemic issues had been found with the Horizon system.”

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Ms Vennells wanted the reference removed as, “the Horizon system was no longer anything to do with the Royal Mail group” she said, and contacted the company secretary to have the reference removed.

Based on this action Ms Vennells wrote to a colleague “I have earned my keep on this”.

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She was at the top of Post Office for 12 years and served as its chief executive for seven of those, from 2012 to 2019.

In at times emotional testimony, Ms Vennells said she “loved the Post Office” and worked “as hard as I possibly could to deliver the best Post Office for the UK”.

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