The government has launched an independent review of the private rented sector in England, which it hopes will improve conditions for landlords and tenants.
There are now almost 2.6 million homes in England being rented from over half a million private landlords.
A report by Citizens Advice last year found one in five tenants was dissatisfied with the quality of repairs carried out by their landlord, and feared retaliatory action from them if they complained to the authorities.
On the other hand, it also found that landlords face problems with unscrupulous tenants not paying rent and displaying anti-social behaviour.
The review will look how the increasing number of buy to let accommodation and student tenants has impacted on the private rented sector, the quality of homes and who the users of the sector are. It will also examine the impact of demographic and social change on the future demand and supply in the sector.
Says Paul Weller, managing director of Leaders, one of the UK’s largest independently owned letting specialists: “As a company that has campaigned for the highest standards in the lettings industry throughout our 25 year history, Leaders is very much in favour of a review that seeks to identify problem areas and formulate appropriate solutions.
“However, we would caution against over-regulation of the industry, which could deter future investment by landlords. The private rented sector is now hugely important to the UK’s housing needs and if private landlords were to pull out of the industry because they are worried about too much complex legislation, there would be nothing to fill the gap.
“With property prices as high as they are, landlords are already concerned about smaller returns on their investment; extra regulation of the industry could make them decide against further investment in the sector, or worse, pull out completely.”
Whilst warning about the danger of over-regulation, Leaders believes there should be better protection for landlords. With the government having done much in recent years to tackle outlaw rogue landlord practices – such as mishandling deposits and letting out unsafe properties – it has not introduced any measures to outlaw rogue tenant practice – such as not paying the rent, causing deliberate damage or refusing to the leave the property when given the appropriate notice to do so.
Under current legislation, unscrupulous tenants can get away with this kind or bad practice for much longer than they ought to – it typically takes from 10 to 12 weeks for a landlord to regain possession of their property, going through the proper court process – costing the landlord a great deal of time, money and stress.
Says Mr Weller: “If you are paying a mortgage and receiving no rent, or if the tenant refuses to leave and is deliberately causing damage to your property, twelve weeks is a painfully long time to wait to get your property back.
“There is currently some very worthwhile legislation in place to protect the rights and safety of tenants – such as Gas Safety, Houses in Multiple Occupation and the recently introduced Tenancy Deposit Scheme – which Leaders fully supports. However we believe the rights of landlords are less well protected and we would like to see this addressed by the forthcoming review.
“We would also urge that any regulations that are introduced as a result of this review should be properly enforced. If they are not, it will be decent landlords and tenants who abide by them, while unscrupulous ones flout them and get away with it.”
The review is expected to be completed by October. The government said it would consider its recommendations to see what else can be done to improve the sector for both landlords and tenants.
In the meantime, landlords and tenants should use only reputable, ARLA, NAEA or RICS registered letting agents when renting or letting a property.
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