With the country in febrile election mode, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Association of Residential Letting Agents has got in on the act and outlined a five-point manifesto for the industry.
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, has told the Daily Mail that the objectives of his manifesto are to ensure tenants get a better deal, landlords stay in the sector and buy to let returns to being an attractive investment and option for everyone from individuals to large companies.
Here is Cox’s five point plan:
1. Tax Incentives: Cox tells the Mail that property investors have faced punitive tax measures in recent years, including a three per cent stamp duty surcharge and the phased reduction of tax relief on mortgage interest. He wants this direction of travel reversed with tax incentives for landlords who act positively for tenants, such as those providing longer-term tenancies. This could include reinstating the tax reliefs that landlords can claim on their mortgage interest.
2. An Open Database of Rogue Landlords: The current system doesn’t work and indeed the Daily Mail recently discovered only 12 names had been entered on the government’s rogue landlord database so far. Cox says everyone - tenants included – should be able to see it, putting pressure on it to be kept up to date. “Otherwise, what is the point?” he asks.
3. Licensing Lettings Agents: Although Cox does not mention the Regulation of Property Agents’ recommendations, his comments to the Mail back up the broad intentions for qualifications and licensing outlined recently by RoPA, which the Theresa May-led government supported. “We hope that the new government will take it forward” says Cox.
4. A Housing Court System: Cox calls for dedicated housing courts which could handle cases rapidly, minimising the time it takes for landlords to repossess their properties - even if the government goes ahead with ending Section 21 powers, as threatened.
5. Introduce Property MOTs: Homes, like cars, could become subject to an annual MOT to ensure they meet statutory requirements, which would mean councils’ current licensing regimes could end, and enforcement would be improved. “This could be a massive step forward. It would be replacing the old regulation that doesn't work, with one that does. And it would be much more effective in maintaining standards” insists Cox.