As the private rented sector and the demand for private rental property has grown, so too have the calls for more government regulation of the private rented sector in one form or another. Not since the introduction of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) and the Buy-to-Let mortgage has there been so much controversy and demand for change.
Proposals now in train in England, the subject of several inquiries and reports, among other things, include more regulation of letting and managing agents, a register of all private landlords, landlord and agent licencing, a standard private tenancy agreement, a letting code of practice, long-term tenancies and rent controls.
As far as agents are concerned there is currently no statutory regulation of private sector letting or managing agents in England or any legal requirement for them to belong to a trade association, although many letting and managing agents do belong to some kind of voluntary regulation scheme.
The Coalition Government does not intend to introduce regulation in the agent sector and has instead pointed to the existing range of available powers under consumer protection legislation.
However, an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 enabled the Government to require agents to sign up to a voluntary redress scheme.
The Redress Schemes for Lettings Agency Work and Property Management Work (Approval and Designation of Schemes) (England) Order 2013 (SI 2013/3192) came into force on 13 December 2013.
This Order sets out the criteria and process for approving redress schemes. On 15 April 2014 the Government announced that it had approved three redress schemes “that all letting and property management agents will be required to join” later in 2014.
The Government is also amending the Consumer Rights Bill to require letting agents to publish a full tariff of their fees.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published a guide for local authorities: “Dealing with rogue landlords” (August 2012) and “How to rent: the check-list for renting in England” (June 2014)
The Government considers that the existing regulation already in place strikes the right balance between landlords and tenants and that new regulation would “introduce too much additional red tape”.
Consultation on a “Draft Tenants’ Charter” began on 16 October 2013.
DCLG is also developing a code of practice on the management of property in the private rented sector “with a view to making it statutory” as well as a voluntary, model tenancy agreement “which landlords and tenants can use for longer tenancies, which will provide extra security and stability for families.”
The rapid growth in the private rented sector means that standards of accommodation, rent levels and the lack of regulation is generating increased attention – it was the focus of a report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee (July 2013) and has been considered by the London Assembly’s Housing and Regeneration Committee.
Several Private Members’ Bills on the issue have been introduced in recent years.
The opposition (Labour Party) have pledged to bring in a form of rent control if they are re-elected in 2015.
Recent Reports (2012/2014) – access them here:
- Regulation – Letting Agents (DCLG)
- Dealing with rogue landlords (HMG)
- How to rent: the checklist for renting in England (HMG)
- Draft Tenants’ Charter (HMG)
- Improving the rented housing sector (DCLG)
- House of Commons
- The Private Rented Sector (DCLG Select Committee Inquiry 1)
- The Private Rented Sector (DCLG Select Committee Inquiry 2)
- The Private Rented Sector (DCLG Select Committee Inquiry 3)
- Rent reform: making London’s private rented sector fit for purpose (London Assembly)
- Private Rented Housing: Improving standards for all (Labour Party Review)