Trade bodies have been responding to today’s report of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee deliberations on the private rented sector, with many seeking more funds and powers for local councils and trading standards.
“Tenants and good landlords are being let down by local authorities unable to properly enforce the powers they already have. Research has found that there are over 140 Acts of Parliament and more than 400 regulations affecting the private rented sector” says Alan Ward, chair of the Residential Landlords Association.
“Whilst the MPs on the committee call for greater powers to protect tenants when they raise complaints about standards in a property, the reality is that these protections already exist and as the Resolution Foundation noted earlier this week, fewer than one in 10 tenancies are ended by the landlord.
“The problem is that over-stretched councils simply do not have the resources to properly use such powers to protect tenants from the minority of landlords who are criminals and have no place in the sector. We therefore welcome calls by the committee for greater resources for local authorities and greater political leadership by them to root out criminal landlords” he adds.
He has welcomed the committee’s view that there should be the creation of a Housing Court which would improve the speed of and access to justice for tenants and landlords. “At present the courts are not fit for purpose when seeking to uphold tenant and landlord rights” says the RLA.
Last year the RLA conducted a Freedom of Information exercise across all local authorities in England and Wales to measure enforcement activity over a five year period between 2012/13 and 2016/17.
Some 296 councils responded. It found that over this period, there was a three per cent fall in inspections by councils related to the regulatory standard for private rented housing, known as the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
There was also a seven per cent decrease in the number of Hazard Awareness Notices issued.
Meanwhile Isobel Thomson, chief executive of NALS, says she welcomes the care and scrutiny given to the sector by MPs, but insists the majority of tenants enjoy safe and secure tenancies anyway.
However, she says the proposal for a Law Commission review of legislation is “an interesting one” and says she would be concerned that it may take some time to deliver.
“For those in the private rental sector who are facing difficulties now they need a solution sooner rather than later” says Thomson.