I am refreshed from my summer break during which I went on my first safari to fulfil a long-held David Attenborough ambition, so please excuse the ‘big beasts’ metaphors.
And now I’m back home, what’s happening in the private rental market and how will the rest of this year pan out?
Increasing pressures from rising rents, higher costs and extra tax are coming home to roost all made more intense by the looming Renters (Reform) Bill and showing up in sentiment within the market on all sides be it landlord, agent or tenant.
This was clearly reflected when Goodlord publish their major annual report within The State of Lettings Industry Report. It reveals that confidence in the sector is not great and this is despite hot demand.
Much of the negativity stems from the uncertainty created by the unstable economic and political environment, but the elephant in the room – or should I say bush – is that policy makers have woken up too late only to realise things may have gone too far to undo.
Finding an affordable rental property in many parts of the country is proving as elusive as spotting rhinoceros on the savannah.
As I found out, you eventually spot one in the far distance but when you get to where it was, it is long gone!
But what can we be sure of? Regardless of parliamentary machinations or political fortunes that wax and then wane, there is a consensus that more legislation in some for or another will be passed soon and be focused on tenant’s rights.
What exactly this will look like is still to be revealed, but the clues are there.
Housing quality will high on the agenda and the keen eyed of you would have seen the Ministry of Justice launched a rental property repair checker, which tenants can use to find out where to find help if a landlord refuses to do essential work.
We have also seen publication of guidance for all the rental sector on damp and mould, which now clearly lays the onus on landlords and agents to identify and deal with problems, whether they believe it is the tenants’ fault or not.
I predicted this would be a major concern for landlords and agents following the death of baby Awaab and, while it has taken the Government many months to get their act together, the guidance whilst controversial lays down the ground rules and firmly puts the responsibility for dealing with issues on the landlord.
Some landlords say in response that they will just serve a Section 21 if a tenant does not alter their lifestyle and not hang their laundry around the house.
But that will not wash. All tenants will need to do is get their council to provide them with an improvement or emergency works notice and the Section 21 will fail as retaliatory eviction.
It's true that persuading hard-pressed housing officers to inspect a property has proven difficult in the past but ongoing, and especially as many local authorities have been hauled over the coals for poor housing, I predict that once mould is involved, these notices will be handed out like confetti.
The Government has also finally published the summary report on the outcomes and next steps for the review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
This process began in 2018 with a stakeholder consultation and then agreement to proceed with a modernisation and simplification of the regulations, which could be more easily followed and enforced.
This was four years ago, and we are now only seeing the results. And even now, secondary legislation will be needed to bring the revisions to the HHSRS into force.
Along with plans to introduce the Decent Homes Standard to private rented property, this means responsibility to ensure a property is ‘fit for human habitation’ will fall on landlords who will increasingly will look to letting agents to provide the expert help and advice.
All of this is a way down the line and will be complicated by other distractions to do with building safety including the post Grenfell move to greater regulation and the ‘RAAC’ concrete controversy which will soon involve the private rental sector too.
But the message is clear - start preparing now. The ‘Great Migration’ to a more regulated market is going to happen, but do not be like the wildebeest that I saw in droves on holiday, staring over the Mara River on the Tanzania/ Kenya border at the fresh green pastures on the other side as millions of teeth chomped the grass on their side into dust.
With the lions closing in, the instinct is to close ranks and hope for the best.
The crossing had to be done but they stalled and hesitated, each one waiting for the next to make the first leap.
Then one or two went followed by hundreds at a time leaping blindly into the raging torrent and desperately swimming and clambering up the riverbank on the other side.
Many of course did not make it, falling in the jaws of passing crocodiles or worse pushed under the water by the masses of their fellows desperately heading for the same destination.
For those of you who like trivia, the word safari is Swahili for journey. Ultimately, the journey for many of you over the coming period will be different and for some more difficult than for others.
Trying to find the right way may prove tricky as the future can camouflage itself as cunningly as a leopard. You will need the right people and expertise, like the guides we had on our trip; and the right tools, such a good pair of binoculars to spot the opportunities and the vaccinations, suncream and insect repellent to protect you.
This is why ensuring you prepare now and adapt and change your plans as required is essential.
Sean Hooker is Head of Redress a the PRS.