The private rented sector is a British success story. It is the only form of housing tenure that continues to grow, and satisfaction amongst tenants is higher than in the social rented sector. That does not however mean that all is perfect.
With an election in sight, calls for more regulation of the sector are becoming ever louder. With over 100 pieces of legislation containing over 400 regulations already affecting the sector, how would more regulations be enforced? Environmental Health Officers have already reported staffing and resources problems. Instead we need a smarter, intelligence led approach that properly punishes the crooks whilst not deterring the majority of good, law abiding landlords from the further investment the sector needs to meet demand.
Let’s look at the calls to introduce a national register of landlords. While some argue that a national register will root out the crooks, only those operating within the law would sign up. What self-respecting criminal landlord would ever willingly make themselves known? Councils would just end spending their limited resources on policing the register and still be no closer to rooting out those who reap misery for their tenants.
What we need is a simple and effective solution to help cash strapped local authorities. That’s why the RLA is calling for a change to council tax forms so that households have to identify the tenure of their property, together with details, where rented, of their landlord. Where information is not supplied, councils would have the intelligence they need to target resources to go after the ’hidden’ landlords.
Rent controls would also do little to help tenants or landlords. Official figures from the Government show rents have, on the whole, been increasing by less than both measurements of inflation. Over the last year they increased by just 1% in England.
In its 2013 report on the private rented sector, the cross party Communities and Local Government Select Committee found that introducing rent controls: “would serve only to reduce investment in the sector at a time when it is most needed.” The way to promote competition for the benefits of tenants is not through greater state control, but promoting investment and boosting the supply of homes to rent. By encouraging competition between landlords we will drive up the quality of tenure and drive down costs, and in the process give tenants genuine choices over where they live.
Tenants should also be given real a choice over housing benefits. The RLA agrees with Shelter, Crisis, Citizens Advice Bureau and the Money Advice Trust that tenants should be given a choice about who receives the housing element of Universal Credit. If we want to promote empowerment and encourage tenants to make choices about their lives then the government shouldn’t dictate who receives Universal Credit.
Whilst the sector isn’t perfect, it is the only housing tenure that continues to grow in difficult times. The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association has found that individual landlords have invested some £50 billion a year in homes to rent. More than five million dwellings were created between 1986 and 2012: almost 60% of these were in the private rented sector.
Rhetoric to regulate our sector merely serves to discourage investment at a time when the country needs a strong private rented sector. The RLA’s manifesto sets out pragmatic and deliverable proposals to give landlords the tools they need to grow our sector and give tenants what the majority of all landlords already provide: a safe, legal and secure home to live in.
A copy of the RLA’s election manifesto can be found here on its website.