A new report from the Nationwide and campaigning charity Shelter puts letting agents in the dock over the standards in the private rental sector.
The report makes a number of key demands including:
The regulation of all letting agents: “All letting agents need to adhere to a code of practice. Additionally, all letting agents must be sufficiently qualified and licensed. These measures would vastly improve standards within the sector and should be a key priority for the government.”
The introduction of a regulatory body covering the private rented sector. “This body should oversee the national landlord register, rogue landlord database and the regulation of letting agents. It should also provide another avenue for redress for renters.”
The abolition of what it calls ‘no-fault’ evictions. “Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 must be abolished, and Section 8 amended, so that landlords must prove they have a legitimate reason for evicting tenants. The government has promised to abolish Section 21 evictions. Its abolition must be a legislative priority. Security of tenure underpins all reform and regulation in the sector, and only once tenants have security will they be able to enforce their rights.”
A national landlord and housing management register. “All landlords and housing management agents must register themselves, the properties they manage, details of the letting agents they work with and the rents they charge to a national register. Landlords and housing management agents must also evidence that the homes they manage meet essential safety requirements. This register would operate alongside the rogue landlord database and could also facilitate a new lifetime deposit scheme. A register would be a foundation for developing greater accountability in the sector and so must be a legislative priority for the government.”
The abolition of Right To Rent: “This policy has been shown to lead to discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality. Nobody should face discrimination in their search for a new home. Government must urgently abolish this policy which represents a substantial barrier to the ability to access private rented housing for migrants, people perceived to be migrants and British people of colour without passports.”
Far more enforcement: The report wants councils funded to hire “sufficient Environmental Health Practitioners, Tenancy Relation Officers and any housing staff they need to address poor housing standards and practice.”
A joint statement from Shelter chief executive Polly Neate and Nationwide chief executive Joe Garner says: “Many private renters are still faced with poor quality housing, poor landlord, housing management agent and letting agent practice and discrimination. Renters also face an underlying lack of security and power.
“Over the last 15 months, we’ve conducted extensive research. We have interviewed a broad range of stakeholders including private renters, users of Shelter’s helplines, local authority officials, Shelter’s legal advisers and case workers, representatives from sector organisations and landlords.
“They told us about the many issues private renters face from poor housing standards and bad practice to discrimination and a lack of power.
“Shelter and Nationwide have used the findings of this research to develop a shared long-term vision for an improved private rented sector.”
The report is bound to be controversial for agents and landlords already under pressure through recent regulation, legislation and the Coronavirus crisis.
You can read the full report here.