Things that will improve the private rented sector
Kate Faulkner highlights how private rented sector could be improved and how the government can help
With a new government in place, both the property industry and tenant and landlord groups and organisations will be keen to promote their ideas and thoughts about changes to the Private Rented Sector that would help the market work better for everyone involved.
Earlier this year, I produced a comprehensive report on the Private Rented Sector (PRS), which looked at how the market worked from the various perspectives of an agent, a landlord and, of course, a tenant.
Interestingly, my conclusion was that most of the PRS works really well. According to a government report, around 78% of landlords have just one property*, so they aren’t the ‘career’ landlords who are often accused of trying to squeeze every penny they can out of tenants.
Fair Rental Prices
Most landlords just want to let a decent property at a fair rent and many hope that if the tenant is a good one, they will stay for a long time. This is great news for tenants, as one of the ways landlords always aim to keep the best tenants is by not increasing the rent unless they have to.
Nationally, rent inflation for existing tenants in the same property is extremely low; the downside for tenants being that they often suddenly have to pay a lot more when they eventually move to another property - as will the new tenants that take on the existing property.
In my view, the PRS needs some changes to make it better for all, but most of these are easy to implement and don’t require huge amounts of government intervention.
Improve excellence in the sector
One of the major problems is that many landlords and tenants don’t consider whether a property is legally let – or even know what the requirements are.
I would like to see the government publish a clear list of 15 major checks that any landlord and tenant should make on a property. Steps have already been taken, with their ‘How to Rent’ Guide (link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent).
Protect Rent Money
Next, although all letting agents now have to be a member of an Ombudsman, so that landlords and tenants have access to a free complaints procedure, I don’t think this is enough. No letting agent should be holding rent without Client Money Protection insurance, which means if something goes wrong in the business, the rent money is protected.
Quality of Rental Property
More needs to be done to encourage landlords to keep the PRS well stocked with good-quality accommodation. Unnecessary rent controls could put people off investing in much needed rental stock, and taxation must be such that it motivates landlords to keep their property in good condition.
Increase enforcement of existing rules and regulations
One of the big frustrations for all good landlords and letting agents is that there is little enforcement of the rules and regulations – and this can lead to the ‘good guys’ losing business to rogues. We have to be able to easily identify at a local level which properties are privately rented and where licensing landlords won’t help, as only the good will apply! A great idea from the Residential Landlords Association was a tick box on council tax forms that are filled in by tenants, to say a property is rented.
Legal Landlord Support
Once local authorities can identify rented properties and agents, they can better ensure they are operating legally and do so cost effectively, or get help from other sources. For example, Shelter are planning to launch a pilot scheme in Dundee later this year that will support the local authority with a ‘private renting support officer’ whose job will be to help landlords ensure they’re operating legally.
Landlord and Agent Enforcement
Secondly, from an enforcement perspective, there is little or no funding for new regulations to be promoted when they are introduced – let alone enforced. And if local authorities do fine landlords or agents, they don’t necessarily plough that money back into more enforcement, which would seem to be the sensible thing.
So, monies need to be made available to educate and enforce existing and new letting laws.
Education, education, education!
Bringing out rules and regulations one after another is increasing the cost of providing a good lettings service for landlords and agents. Both on and off-line there is a huge amount of misinformation and some of the rules, for example electrical safety, are ambiguous and need to be clarified.
To keep up with the latest rules and regulations, mandatory CPD training is needed for all of the PRS – including lenders, insurers, housing charities/organisations and housing associations, as well as landlords and letting agents. And from a tenant perspective, many young people will now rent rather than buy, so adding ‘how to rent’ to the national curriculum would be really helpful to the next generation.
The full report is available at Propertychecklists.co.uk