Industry review by independent academics calls for major reforms to ‘confused and contradictory’ regulations

publication date: Sep 10, 2018
 | 
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Calls for major reforms to ‘confused and contradictory’ regulations

Ten years after their seminal report on the private rental sector, Julie Rugg and David Rhodes have produced a review on how the industry has evolved over the past decade.

I am delighted that this much needed report is now in the open. I hope very much that it will encourage more sensible content and conversations from the industry, government and tenant groups, reported in a balanced way in the media – all of which will ultimately benefit the key consumer in this market: renters.

The current rhetoric blaming landlords and/or letting agents for any problems in the PRS is wrong. Rather than encouraging landlords and agents to put decent roofs over people's heads at an affordable price, it makes tenants the biggest losers.  

What’s in this report?
The Evolving Private Rented Sector: Its Contribution and Potential, funded by the Nationwide Foundation, they examine:

  • supply and demand in the PRS and property market as a whole
  • the changing needs of householders
  • renting into retirement
  • property conditions
  • regulations and enforcement
  • taxation changes for landlords
  • support for tenants on a low income and the effects of Welfare Reform

Attitudes towards the PRS need to change
Their findings lead them to call for a major overhaul of lettings legislation: There needs to be an entirely new regulatory framework for the PRS. The current law is confused and contradictory. The law should be revised and simplified.”

They recommend a ‘more neutral approach’ from the government: “overtly ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ PRS measures always distort the market. A more neutral approach increases the precision with which it is possible to understand problems and define appropriate solutions.”

The review also highlights London-centric policies which don’t always serve the needs of tenants around the country:  London’s PRS dominates the narratives that sit around renting, but the capital is not the only story. Renting is configured differently in different types of area: problems are not the same, and solutions have to be flexible enough to accommodate difference.”

Other recommendations in the review include:

  1. A mandatory national landlord and letting agent register, with penalty points accrued for contravening regulations, leading to a ban if sufficient points are awarded.
  2. Annual property “MoT” certificates, required by law to let a property.
  3. More investigation of the issues facing tenants outside of London, so strategies can be tailored accordingly.
  4. Looking to Scotland and how its tenure system affects landlords and tenants before making changes to the current system.
  5. An urgent review of the welfare system to reduce homelessness and develop solutions which work in co-operation with landlords.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. I hope very much that this excellent review will be listened to by MPs and those wanting real change in the sector rather than creating headlines for headline's sake.

It’s time to put tenants first and to help ensure they feel they are in a sector where they will be well looked after, whatever their budget, rather than constantly telling them they are getting a raw deal and should expect to be treated badly. 

Let us hope in the next 10 years (or if I have anything to do with it, 5 years!) we have a fantastic sector that we can all be proud of.

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