What the Private Rented Sector Needs Now is a Period of Reflection

And so the general election is over and all is more or less calm in the world of the private rented sector – for a few years at least.

The clear majority for the Conservatives meant there will now be no compulsion for landlords to issue 3 year tenancies. And the green light previously given to local authorities to allow them to require all landlords to get licenses for all let properties in their area will continue to be curtailed. They will need to jump through the hoop of getting permission from central government first.

What the Private Rented Sector Needs Now is a Period of Reflection

Phew.

Perhaps, central government can now take a deep breath and have something of a sensible debate about the private rented sector. A good place to start would be for someone in government to wipe the seven years of dust way from their copy of the Rugg Review into the private rented sector. This report contained much good sense that has not been bettered by any other report since – and it should be followed up.

The fact is that most landlords want their tenants to stay for a long time and treat their properties as their home. Most landlords put their rents up slower than the rate of inflation. Indeed, many landlords that I know don’t put rents up at all for years for fear of losing good tenants and because of the high cost in time and money that a changeover of tenant always entails. (The facts are that the average tenancy lasts for almost 4 years, with the vast majority ended by tenants and not by their landlords. And they are ended for reasons that are not related to how the property has been managed during the tenancy).

Naturally, the likes of Generation Rent and Shelter only hear about the duff landlords – the ones who never get repairs done and who always put up rents as high as they can or who move to evict should any of their tenants complain about anything at all.

These form the minority of landlords though. All the same, they are a pest and a nuisance  – and they make people’s live a misery.

Rogue Landlords

So policy should be designed to weed out these types of landlord. Right now, the overall direction of policy is just not effective.

The solution must be to give the local authorities the tools to go after the worst operators.

All-landlord licensing as operated in Newham in London is a very heavy handed tool and it does not work because it imposes costs on all good landlords (which is passed onto their tenants as higher rents), whilst the rogue landlords ignore it and will probably never be found.

So, we hope the government go back and look at the rules and regulations effecting landlords and allow the local authorities enough resources to use their existing powers to go after the rogue ones and let the majority of sensible landlords go about their business properly and without unnecessary encumbrances.

In addition to this, both landlords and tenants also need the knowledge to be able to spot duff letting agents. And tenants need to be able to spot a landlord who is incompetent.

This can only be done via a proper process of education – both need to know what questions to ask when they go to view a property with a landlord or letting agent. And tenants need to know what questions to ask when they first meet a landlord or letting agent. They need to be able to spot a duff one, just as a householder can spot a duff electrician or plumber.

Current levels of tenant knowledge is just not good enough. More information needs to be made available.

I am available if anyone from the government wants help with this!

ABOUT LETTINGFOCUS

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We advise a range of organisations including banks, building societies, local authorities, social housing providers, institutional investors and insurers. We help them develop and improve their services and products for private landlords.

David Lawrenson, founder of LettingFocus also writes for property portals, speaks at property events and is regularly quoted by the media.

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We help landlords and property investors by showing them how to make money in the private rented sector using ways which are fair to tenants and which involve minimal risk.

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