A team of experts has released a report that responds to government reform plans - and it insists that if Section 21 must be abolished, fixed term tenancies should remain to help negate many of the unintended consequences, whilst still giving tenants more security.
According to research from The Lettings Industry Council the private rented sector is losing around 59 per cent per cent of rental properties as landlords sell up.
The report makes several recommendations in order to protect the rapidly declining rental stock including, most crucially, making the case for allowing fixed term tenancies to remain. TLIC considers the proposal to move all tenancies to periodic to be one of the biggest risks in terms of landlords exiting the private rental sector, noting that the Welsh Government had planned the same, only to revert back to allowing fixed-term tenancies.
The report suggests that removing Section 21 within the current fixed-term AST set up would provide much more security for both sides compared to the proposed periodic setup, which it suggests will negatively impact shared households, lead to significant job losses in the sector and prejudice applicants who require a guarantor.
In addition, The Lettings Industry Council has made several suggestions on how to improve the court system.
These include accelerated claims issued online, reducing the listing of PRS claims to no later than four weeks, automatically transferring rent arrears cases with more than six months arrears up to the High Court, approval of an affordability assessment when making a Possession Order, and abandonment cases to be determined without recourse to the court.
Theresa Wallace, chair of The Lettings Industry Council, says: “It is vital to maintain the supply of desperately needed properties to rent, to prevent a further rise in homelessness and living costs which will inevitably affect the most vulnerable tenants on the lowest incomes.
“We are calling for any changes to the PRS to be very carefully considered and thorough impact assessments conducted, so as to ensure that the proposed changes do not cause more landlords to exit the sector at a point where property is so desperately needed by tenants.”
Other suggestions in the report include:
Council Tax – Where the tenant moves out of the property without notice the landlord will immediately become liable for the council tax and will not be able to recharge it to the tenant, Amend the Tenant Fees Act to allow council tax to be paid to landlords
Decent Homes Standard - TLIC would like to see a guidance note to tenants on what are reasonable expectations in terms of time frames for maintenance.
Enforcement – Local authorities should have the power to issue fines to landlords who fail to meet requirements of the new tenancy system.
Landlord Ombudsman - If agents must be part of redress and landlord must be part of another scheme, it will be more confusing for tenants to know to whom they should complain. There should be one single ombudsman for all landlords and agents, thereby giving a single “complaints mechanism”.
Property Portal – to avoid the uploading of fraudulent documents, properties should be registered by their Unique Property Reference Number. The portal could then ‘look across’ to the EPC register and check there is an EPC registered and in time gas and electrical safety reports.
Selective and HMO Licensing Schemes – TLIC suggests with a property register identifying landlords and the PRS Decent Homes Standard, selective licensing which has had limited success will not be needed.
Timings – the changes should be introduced in such a way that the sector has sufficient time to adjust and prepare for them. The proposal of 6 months from implementation of the Bill for all new tenancies and 12 months for existing tenancies is too short a time scale. It should be at least 18 months before new tenancies have to comply and a further 12-18 months before existing tenancies must comply, given the huge impact of the changes.
You can read the full report HERE