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Property portal: Can tech free up cash to tackle criminal landlords?

Rental reform has never been far from the headlines in the last 12 months, with the introduction of a property portal a key element of the Government’s Renters (Reform) Bill.

But what exactly is a property portal?

A ‘one stop shop’ providing guidance and advice for landlords and tenants, the Government has described the portal as an online space where landlords would register their properties and demonstrate compliance with safety regulations by uploading copies of documents such as Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and gas and safety certificates.

It is already compulsory to serve these compliance documents to tenants at the start of the tenancy, and it is hoped that the property portal will replace this need – although thus far there is no information on this.

Words such as ‘register’ can start the alarm bells ringing, with connotations of additional paperwork, extra expense and red tape.

However, managed properly, such a portal, combined with tech such as the systems we use at Safe2, has the potential to make managing your tenancies easier. Our service allows landlords to arrange inspections and receive safety certificates digitally – with reminders flagging important deadlines.

The property portal plan also throws into question the need for expensive licensing schemes, which all too often serve to penalise good landlords while the criminals go undetected.

Selective licensing and the portal 

Many selective licensing schemes are justified on the basis that the local authority needs information on its private rented sector so that it can carryout enforcement work to identify criminal landlords.

As many of you will know fees can be substantial, and good landlords all too often feel aggrieved that they are paying sky high charges while the rogues fail to declare their properties. This is even more frustrating where local authorities are doing little enforcement work to justify the scheme or the expense.

The NRLA has written to the Government asking for assurances that, given local authorities will have access to the portal and its data, the Government will scrap selective licensing.

While we have yet to receive a formal response Housing Secretary Michael Gove told our Chief Executive Ben Beadle he made a ‘very fair point’ when he raised this argument at a public Q&A session last year.

The Government said that the property portal will free up time and resources in the courts and local authorities, allowing them to spend more time dealing with serious cases – and this is a compelling argument.

What we need now is more detail as to how the online hub would operate and – the $64,000 question – whether there will be a charge to register.  

In Wales landlords are already required to pay fees to register their properties.

The cost of registration with Rent Smart Wales, is relatively low with landlords applying online charged £46 for the initial five years and then £36 to renew for another five years. However, there is also an additional cost for licensing and training.

There has been no reference to fees in England as yet, although with landlords registering and uploading their own details and documents, we believe it would be wrong to levy the kind of charges some landlords are spending on local licences.

What have landlords said?

The NRLA has surveyed landlords on the government plans, with more than half, 53%, supporting the idea of the portal as a central hub for safety certificates compliance.

Landlords under the age of 55, who are arguably more used to managing their businesses online, were more than twice as likely to view the property portal as an improvement on providing the tenant with paper copies of compliance documents.  

The digital shift reflects the way the industry is moving –and reflects wider trends towards paperless, online processes.

Any portal will need to be clear and accessible for all, not just the tech savvy, with landlords and tenants relying on it for compliant, hassle-free tenancies. The Government must also ensure landlords, and tenants are confident the site is secure and that their data is safe, one of the biggest concerns.

Yet, provided costs are low, guidance is clear and – most importantly – the technology works, the property portal could be the solution we are looking for to empower local authorities to abandon licensing and focus limited resources on tackling the criminals who continue to blight the sector.

More information

Part of the NRLA family, Safe2 is a digital platform providing of all forms of property safety certification. A one-stop-shop for all things compliance, it sends alerts when documents are due to expire, organises inspections and repairs and issues certificates. All NRLA members are entitled to exclusive discounts when using any of Safe2’s services. 


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