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New study of Private Rented Sector wins backing from landlord bodies

Friday 14 September 2018

Landlord bodies and industry professionals have welcomed a new report which outlines the problems faced by the rental sector's problems.

The report called The Evolving Private Rented Sector, by academics Julie Rugg and David Rhodes from the University of York, is a follow-up to a 2008 examination of the sector by the same authors.

The pair now describe the private rental sector as “confused and contradictory” and say it is “failing at multiple levels” with tenants and landlords alike unsure of their rights and responsibilities.

They claim many homes are in a poor condition due to bad management rather than old housing stock as the root cause.

The report also says Build to Rent and other policies apparently aimed at improving the sector are increasingly focused on helping higher and middle-income renters with little or no help for those on low incomes.

They recommend a mandatory national landlord and letting agent register, with penalty points accrued for contravening regulations, leading to a ban if sufficient points are awarded.

They also want an annual property ‘MoT-style’ certificate, required by law to let a property, in addition to wider welfare reforms to improve ‘safety nets’ for many renters.

Kate Faulkner - who runs the Propertychecklists consultancy and works for the Which? consumer group and bodies and agencies in the lettings sector - has given her backing to the report, which was issued this week.

She said: “I am delighted that this much needed report is now in the open.

"I hope very much that it will encourage more sensible content and conversations from the industry, government and tenant groups, reported in a balanced way in the media – all of which will ultimately benefit the key consumer in this market: renters."

But she adds: “The current rhetoric blaming landlords and/or letting agents for any problems in the private rental sector is wrong.

"Rather than encouraging landlords and agents to put decent roofs over people's heads at an affordable price, it makes tenants the biggest losers.”

The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) has already given broad backing to measures aimed at removing criminal landlords from the sector ; now the National Landlords Association, which also contributed to the report, has spoken in favour of its proposals.

In a statement on its website, the National Landlords Association (NLA) says it believes the sector would benefit from a more strategic approach from government.

NLA chief executive Richard Lambert said: “Everyone calls for ‘evidence-based policy’ but too often we have policy-based evidence.

"This report clearly states to case for better understanding of landlords, their motivations and their business plans, recognising that neither landlords nor tenants are a homogenous group.

“Understanding the customer is vital to ensure that private rented sector meets the needs of tenants and it’s essential that landlords develop a stronger consumer focus.

"At the same time, it’s important to recognise that the overwhelming majority of tenancies pass successfully for both landlords and tenants, and policy interventions to address those that don’t must be strategic and targeted.”

Richard Truman, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance adds; “The report is a fascinating insight into the housing market and private rented sector. It’s echoed by our own research into the ‘emerging landlord’ , tracking in detail the makeup of the modern landlord, who’s investing and how they’re coping with change.

“There are clearly very real challenges to be faced, and understanding the complexities of those is going to be key in building a sector fit for the future.”

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