Which?, the consumer body that appears to be taking an increasingly-aggressive line against letting agents and landlords, has now issued a five-point demand for reform of the rental sector.
1. All landlords registered with local authorities, with information logged on a publicly available database linked to the existing register of rogue landlords and agents established in April 2018;
2. The creation of an independent regulator for lettings and management agents with a mandatory, legally binding code of practice and strong penalties for what it calls “rogue operators”;
3. The government to introduce reforms to improve tenure security and review eviction procedures to reduce unnecessary delays for landlords when repossession is justified;
4. A review of tenancy agreements used by letting agents “to establish how widespread use of unfair, inaccurate or misleading terms and conditions is – and if further action, for example an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority, is required”;
5. The government to provide consumers with “an effective and accountable alternative dispute resolution scheme”, review the current deposit adjudication schemes and consider options to avoid tenants being forced to cover multiple deposits at the same time.
In an accompanying statement Which? says the private rented sector is failing to serve tenants and landlords alike, and is “plagued by issues of sub-standard accommodation, insecurity and ineffective redress provisions.”
The organisation says it has tracked the experiences of more than 2,500 tenants as they searched for, secured, lived in and moved on from rented accommodation in England; it also carried out a survey of 898 private landlords.
Which? says: “The report found evidence of wide-ranging issues from substandard property conditions to anxiety about insecure tenancies and a fear of reporting problems. This was combined with a lack of knowledge from tenants and landlords about rights and responsibilities, and a failure by some letting agents to provide necessary information.”
It claims that millennials are particularly affected by issues with 68 per cent of those questioned saying they have experienced problems with letting agents and they are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely than older tenants to report poor standards of accommodation.
“Startlingly, one in five millennial renters told us that they did not receive a written tenancy agreement when they moved into a property” claims the organisation.
It says that as more families are unable to buy a home, there has been a dramatic rise in private renters with dependent children “but many of them fear losing their homes due to a lack of security of tenure.”
With regard to agents, Which? says its research “raises serious concerns about a lack of regulation ... with reports of rogue operators pressuring house-hunters to pay holding deposits or sign contracts without the information needed to make informed decisions.”
The full report is available here.