Lettings accreditation and training service Safeagent is calling on the government to make more public cash available for councils to exercise enforcement on the private rental sector.
The service’s chief executive, Isobel Thomson, makes her comments in response to a scathing attack on the quality of private rented accommodation by the all-party Public Accounts Committee of 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.
Thomson says: “Reform needs to be cohesive, and work as a complete package for everyone in the private rented sector. Turning theory into practice will be the biggest challenge, so the committee is right to focus on enforcement.
“Agents have a vital role to play in helping to stamp out malpractice and, whatever the private rental sector reform package brings, will be there to support regulators with proper enforcement and monitoring. That means agents, landlords, and tenants all need to be directly involved in shaping policy.
“We support reform, but lots can be done to enforce existing regulation, without needing to wait for more wholesale change.
“Education is key and local authorities need support from central Government to ensure tenants fully understand their rights. Agents already play a pivotal role in ensuring tenants are well-informed.
“Everyone in the PRS wants a system that works for all involved. We will continue to work closely with our agents to help them understand and embrace whatever changes are coming.”