A landmark report on private renting provides the opportunity to stop blaming letting agents and landlords for the sector’s problems, a leading expert says.
Kate Faulkner - who runs the Propertychecklists consultancy and works extensively for the Which? consumer group and bodies and agencies in the lettings sector - has given her backing to the latest report by academics Julie Rugg and David Rhodes, issued this week.
“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” Faulkner says.
But critically 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 report by Rugg and Rhodes, called The Evolving Private Rented Sector, is a follow-up to a 2008 examination of the sector by the same authors.
The pair now describe the private rental sector “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 with 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.
Faulkner, who welcomes the report, says: “I can’t wait to see what happens next. I hope very much that this excellent review will be listened to by MPs and those wanting real change in the sector rather than creating headlines for headline's sake.
“It’s time to put tenants first and to help ensure they feel they are in a sector where they will be well looked after, whatever their budget, rather than constantly telling them they are getting a raw deal and should expect to be treated badly.”
The report has already been widely welcomed by lettings trade bodies.