ARLA Propertymark has hit back in this week’s debate on the quality of private rental property, following sharp criticism in a report by the Public Accounts Committee of MPs in the House of Commons.
The PAC claims some 13 per cent of the private rented sector stock poses “a serious threat to the health and safety of renters” which is costing the NHS an estimated £340m each year.
At the same time the PAC claims enforcement of the sector “is a postcode lottery …with 21 per cent of all privately rented homes in one region estimated to be severely unsafe”.
The MPs say tenants face increasing rents, a rising number of low-earners and families renting long-term, and the prevalence of Section 21 evictions leaving households at risk of homelessness; and when trying to enforce their right to a safe and secure home private “renters face an inaccessible, arduous and resource-intensive court process and the risk of retaliatory eviction.”
The committee goes on to claim that there is also evidence of unlawful discrimination in the sector, with 25 per cent of landlords unwilling to let to non-British passport holders and 52 per cent unwilling to let to tenants who receive Housing Benefit.
However, ARLA Propertymark says it agrees with only some of the findings of the Public Accounts Committee.
Timothy Douglas, the trade body’s head of policy and campaigns, states: “The report reiterates our long-held view that ‘piecemeal’ legislative changes have been introduced which ‘has made the regulatory system even more overly complex and difficult to navigate’.
“Without a long-term vision for the sector it seems that more fragmented policies are on their way with the startling statement that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is making decisions, such as on the issue of retaliatory evictions, without having all the evidence and data it needs to do so.”
But Douglas goes on to say that government figures released just this week by the Office of National Statistcis show that investment in repairs and maintenance to private accommodation has seen all-time highs over the past 18 months.
This is in stark contrast to the social rented sector that has seen investment in repairs and maintenance at the lowest levels since records began over the last two years.
Douglas continues: “There are at least six government departments that interact with the private rented sector and if the UK government are serious about reforms, then all relevant Ministers, officials and stakeholders including local authorities must be at the same table, working together and setting out a roadmap for reform that cuts across all the different policy areas.”
You can see our extensive story on the PAC report and its recommendations here.