The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and Propertymark have both welcomed proposals from MPs to reform the private rented sector, following the release of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee’s report on the government’s planned changes to the market.
In its report the committee warns that: “It is not clear whether the government fully appreciates the extent to which an unreformed courts system could undermine its tenancy reforms.”
Whilst the report calls for the development of a specialist housing court, it sets out how, at the very least, measures are needed to considerably speed up the time it takes for the courts to process legitimate possession cases. Specifically, it states how matters relating to rent arears or anti-social behaviour require a swift response from the courts.
The Committee report concludes:
+ All forms of anti-social behaviour by tenants should be a mandatory ground for possession even if a criminal conviction has not been made. Suitable guidance for the courts should be developed to ensure such cases are dealt with swiftly and with certainty about the outcome.
+ Student tenancies should be exempt from plans to make every tenancy open ended. It warns that the Government’s current plans “could make letting to students considerably less attractive to private landlords, as the student market mirrors the academic year and benefits greatly from 12-month fixed tenancies.”
+ That “the most serious challenge currently facing many private renters is neither security of tenure nor housing conditions, but the high cost of renting caused by the housing crisis.” Mirroring the NRLA’s calls ahead of the Budget, the Committee recognises the value of private landlords by calling on the Government to: “review the impact of recent tax changes in the buy-to-let market with a view to making changes that make it more financially attractive to smaller landlords.”
+ For benefit claimants: “The real issue is twofold: there are not enough homes for rent; and local housing allowance rates have not kept pace with the market in recent years.” The Committee calls on the Government to unfreeze housing benefit rates to ensure they cover average rents.
Chris Norris, policy director for the NRLA, said: “We warmly welcome much of the report and thank the committee for taking on board many of the arguments we have made.
“The NRLA has never been against reform of the sector, but it has to be fair and workable for both tenants and landlords. That is why the Committee is right to call for court reform to underpin the ending of Section 21, changes in plans for student tenancies and ensuring cases of anti-social behaviour are prioritised by the courts.
“As the committee rightly notes, the biggest challenge faced by many renters is that there are not enough homes to rent. All the protections in the world will mean nothing for tenants if the homes are not there in the first place. That’s why the government should accept the committee and the NRLA’s call for a full review of the impact of recent tax changes in the sector.”
Also responding to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee’s review into reforming the private rented sector in England with recommendations to the UK government, Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, commented: “It is encouraging that the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee shares our concerns that the private rented sector is shrinking. The Committee has joined us in recommending a review into the impact of recent tax changes in the buy-to-let market to help inform the UK Government of how we can make changes that will spur on investment and make it more financially attractive to smaller landlords.
“We are also pleased to see our evidence-based proposals are being listened to. This includes retaining fixed-term contracts in the student private rented sector, introducing a specialist housing court, fast-tracking all possession claims in respect of rent arrears and antisocial behaviour and the need for more social house building to improve investor confidence, tackle affordability and increase supply.
“It is concerning, however, that the Committee has recommended that the UK Government introduce a single ombudsman for the whole of the private rented sector without considering its impact. Such a significant change needs thorough consideration of the implications on the system as a whole.
“Alongside letting agents, sales and managing agents are also currently legally required to belong to one of the existing redress schemes, therefore removing these schemes and replacing with one for letting agents and landlords will have knock on effects for the housing sector which the committee has failed to realise. What is needed is a single-entry point for all housing related complaints and for the UK Government to extend the requirements for redress to landlords who are fully managing rented property only.
“The report could have gone further to acknowledge the need for regulation for letting agents and a wider approach that incorporates the six government departments that interact with the private rented sector to create a long-term strategy for the future of renting. For us to find a long-term solution, we must look holistically at the scale of the challenge and be realistic about the level of reforms needed.”