A report into the failings of the private rented sector backed by leading political and industry figures has recommended that landlords should be regulated in the same way as financial services and utility companies are, and proposes a raft of wide-ranging reforms and initiatives.

This includes empowering renters, better enforcement of their consumer rights and increased protection of tenants from unscrupulous landlords and letting agents.

The 42-page Consumer Rights in the Private Rented Sector report includes calls for mandatory licensing of all landlords in England, a code of conduct and even enabling local authorities to confiscate properties.

It also proposes a single law to replace the 140+ pieces that currently govern the PRS.

The key recommendations are:

  • Mandatory registration for English landlords and agents.
  • Stronger banning orders including property confiscation.
  • A Private Renters Panel to represent tenants in policy making.
  • A separate regulator for the PRS.
  • Reform of redress and dispute resolution by introducing mandatory membership of the Housing Ombudsman Service for private rented sector landlords and lettings agents.
  • An open-ended, flexible tenancy to replace ASTs.
  • Make landlords provider better tenancy info to tenants.
  • Set up a nationwide renting information hub.
  • Bring the industry together via a National Private Rented Sector Reference Group.
  • Introduce a Private Renting Quality Standard.
  • Review current deposit providers and consider a National Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

Meera Chindooroy (picture, right), Deputy Director of Campaigns, Public Affairs & Policy at the NRLA, tells LandlordZONE: Landlords are providing a service and renters are their consumers. But being a tenant also comes with responsibilities – to look after the property, to behave appropriately without harming neighbours and co-tenants, to pay the rent, and to let the landlord know when repairs are needed.

“It’s important that tenants feel able to raise concerns about their homes with their landlord, and that both tenants and landlords are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

“We would welcome streamlined regulation in the sector and a clearer policy direction around the role of the private rented sector within the housing mix.

“We are in principle supportive of the concept of a proportionate landlord register, and have been working with others in the industry on the concept of linking this to a ‘property MOT’ which would enable tenants and local authorities to immediate see whether a property is up to standard, at a low cost.

Landlord and tenants

“The Government has also made clear that landlords will be required to register with a redress scheme in future. This will help to formalise the framework within which the relationship between landlords and tenants exists,” she adds.

“When considering regulation of the private rented sector, we have to recognise that there are 1.5-2 million landlords, the vast majority with just one or two properties, and this is not the same as regulating utilities or financial services. Regulation must be proportionate and appropriate to the needs of the sector, and work for all parties.”

Its author Lewis Shand Smith says: “Legislation is fragmented, landlord registration patchy, monitoring and enforcement is weak, routes to complaining limited and access to free and independent redress absent for most renters in the PRS.

“We propose therefore that there should be a Private Rented Sector Act, consolidating the plethora of legislation that already exists and building on it.”

John Healey (right), former shadow housing minister, says: “People who rent from a private landlord are at the sharp end of the housing crisis, but the truth is we have often more rights as consumers when we rent a car, buy a fridge-freezer or take out a loan than we do as private renters.

“This report doesn’t pretend to provide a comprehensive set of prescriptions for the private rented sector, but it does provide a strikingly fresh perspective which I hope will provide food for thought for politicians in Westminster and beyond.”

Read the report, which has been funded by The Smith Institute, in full.

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