New regulations which hand private housing tenants more power and rights to request longer leases have been given a cautious welcome by a leading property expert.
Julia Williams, director of Worcestershire property management specialists, Premier Places, believes the new code of practice, set to be launched by the Government, would bring in much-needed protection for tenants against perceived ‘high risk’ landlords.
But she is concerned that the proposed new Tenants’ Charter, another element to the Whitehall-led plans, could mean honest landlords are at a disadvantage and could be put off from renting their properties. The result, she said, could be a shortage of housing, higher rents and landlords finding it difficult to step away from legal binding agreements.
Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, recently unveiled the new measures which are designed to allow England’s nine million private tenants to request long-term rental deals which give them more stability. Councils will also receive guidance on how to protect private tenants from illegal eviction and how to push for tough penalties for offences.
Mr Pickles, has proposed a charter that, in his words, will “raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation, root out the cowboys and rogue operators in the sector, and give tenants the confidence to request longer fixed-term tenancies that meet their needs.”
But Ms Williams is calling for Mr Pickles to take more areas into consideration to ensure that landlords and tenants are on a level playing field. She said she is concerned the changes could also prove costly to tenants who could be liable for stamp duty land tax and legal costs.
“It’s absolutely right that all letting agents should be part of an approved redress scheme. A new code of practice is definitely the way forward for the management of private residential lettings. But it has to be fair for both landlords and tenants.” said Ms Williams.
“The danger is that if landlords believe tenants have an unfair advantage, fewer people will want to rent out properties. That means a housing shortage and higher rents for everyone. Eric Pickles is right to want to make fees transparent and clear. That’s something we already do but it should be more than just good practice, it should be the rule for everyone.”
Ms Williams added that the tenants’ charter would be a good move but risked putting people at a disadvantage if it was not designed very carefully.
She continued: “Longer leases will give tenants security in that they will be able to live in their home for many years. That’s a good thing but the risk is that it means someone is set to pay so much rent over that period that they become liable for stamp duty land tax and the legal advice that goes with it, the same as if they had bought a property.”
Meanwhile landlords will need to be assured that the rent they are being paid is keeping up with the market rate. But Ms Williams said there was nothing in the plans to suggest that they will be allowed to review the rents on a long lease.
The student housing market may, at first glance, benefit from the new scheme for long leases because it would mean tenancies of two, three or four years to cover an undergraduate degree.
However, parents may be unwilling to fork out the substantial deposit that would be required to guarantee students’ rent for such a long period.
“There is still a way to go to improve the system to protect both the landlord and the tenant. But it is a step in the right direction.” added Ms Williams
Article provided by Premier Places