Lawmakers want a shake-up of the rules governing the private rental sector to make them clearer and fairer for landlords and tenants.
The wide-ranging report from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee of MPs lists recommendations for changing how the private rental sector works.
Some of the key points include:
• Uprating letting agent regulation to the same standard as estate agents, which means all agents would be scrutinised by the Office of Fair Trading and would have to run a complaints scheme and client money protection for rents and deposits.
- Letting agents should reach minimum professional standards and should register with an accredited body for ongoing training
- Property adverts should include a highlighted list of all fees a tenant needs to pay to rent a private home
- Local councils should have a free hand over licensing landlords rather than introducing a national registration scheme
- An electrical safety certificate for private rented homes should be introduced that requires renewal every five years
- Mortgage lenders should drop conditions that stop landlords renting a home for longer than 12 months
- A working party of MPs should look at giving landlords a quicker and easier process to evict tenants who fail to pay rents
- Tenancy agreement wording should be clearer and both landlords and tenants should have key feature documents laying out their rights and responsibilities
The report list recommendations that would need to go to consultation and through Parliament to become law.
Launching the report, Clive Betts, the select committee chairman, said: “Amazingly letting agents are subject to less control than estate agents. This lack of regulation is giving rise to sharp practice and abuse by some letting agents.
“We were told that the letting sector was the property industry’s ‘Wild West’. Cowboy agents who rip off landlords and tenants have to be stopped. They need to play by new rules or get out of the sector.”
Backing the report, Housing Minister Mark Prisk handed councils £3 million to take on bad landlords who offer tenants poor housing.
Prisk said: “The majority of tenants are happy with their home and the service they receive, but there are still a minority of rogue landlords who exploit vulnerable people and force their tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid conditions.
“It’s unacceptable that the lives of tenants and their neighbours are made a misery in the name of profit. That’s why today I’m offering councils a share of £3 million to take on the rogue operators in their area.”