Private tenants need greater protection and more power – report

A new report, Consumer rights in the private rented sector has been published by the Smith Institute with the Wates Family Enterprise Trust on ‘Consumer rights in the private rented sector’.

Authored by former Chief Ombudsman, Lewis Shand Smith, with a foreword by John Healey MP, the report shows that consumer protection for England’s 4.5m private renters is sub-standard and compares poorly with other sectors, such as energy, telecoms and financial services.

The report concludes that private tenants need greater protection and more power as consumers in the rental market.

Tenants should be able to identify bad landlords who flout the rules, and have access to homes that they can be confident will be safe, secure and affordable.

Private landlords meanwhile must have greater clarity about their obligations.

The report calls for a new Private Rented Sector Regulator oversee compliance with standards, support local authorities in their enforcement role, and ensure both tenants’ and landlords’ voices are heard.

It also recommends an open-ended Private Residential Tenancy, including removing no-fault evictions and increasing notice periods for longer term tenants.

It proposes reform of the redress and dispute resolution by introducing mandatory membership of the Housing Ombudsman Service for private rented sector landlords and lettings agents; an independent Private Renters Panel to represent interests of renters and engage with Government and the new Regulator on policy development; and an obligation on all landlords to provide better information for tenants

John Healey MP, former shadow housing minister, commented that:

“Renting must change after Covid. Home was meant to be our place of safety during lockdown but millions of renters continue to live in insecure and sub-standard housing.

“We have more consumer rights when we rent a car, buy a fridge-freezer or take out a loan that we do as private renters”.

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous Agent

    This is all well and good, however tenants can cause severe financial difficulties for good landlords without anywhere near enough protection for them.

    I do however believe that private landlords should be regulated at the same time as agents get regulated.

    Letting agents have all dis-instructed themselves from dealing with landlords who do not wish to comply with the legislation and there is currently no way of reporting these landlords to the relevant authorities.

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  2. Will2

    Perhaps we need more protection from politicians. Look at the wonderful graph which clearly shows a significant decline in social housing because the politican and their mates have sold off the social housing paid for by the public’s taxes and then these people rely on the PRS to provide housing. They have sold public assets for their own political advantage. Asset striping by any other name.  Is that enough? No they now want to take over and control more of that which they do not own. I have no problem requiring rented property to be to a decent standard. In fact the release of rent control on new lettings following the 1988 Act has done more for improving the standard of housing than any legislation before as it allowed the market to invest and improve the housing stock.  Landlords improved property to get the better quality and better paying tenants.  This has peaked and now political involvement is driving investment down as more and more control and dictates increase each month with unrelenting attack on the PRS.  The fact is they are now actively driving away landlords and the  proposed abolition of s21 is a mistake that is starting to show its effect.

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  3. letstalk

    Whilst I don’t shy away from the regulation that is being proposed, it is a welcome thing to stop those that think they can set up agencies overnight to make a fast buck with no prior experience or qualification, I do believe that two things need to happen hand in hand with this to clean up the rental market;

    1) Self Managing landlords need to be held to the same standards with the same costs to meet those requirements.

    2) There needs to be a regulatory body that actually has some teeth and uses them, particularly where landlords are refusing to meet the standards!

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  4. Woodentop

    So they want renting to come into line with financial services. Oh dear, that means so many social tenants will not be allowed a roof.

     

    And so the landlord bashing continues, biting the hand that feeds a system that is in crisis.

     

    There are enough rules and regulations for safe housing, it is the enforcement that is all wrong …. practically zero in the scheme of things, unless you are an HMO and that is often absurd.

     

    There are rouge landlords but so are there many rouge tenants. This lot are blind to see they have made it very difficult for genuine tenants to be housed and slowly but surely continue to destroy an industry and housing availability that is already in crisis. There is no sign of a balance for private landlords. The good ones have or are leaving.

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  5. Jonathan Stein

    In every industry there will always be a minority that ruin it for the majority. Housing being provided to a minimum standard should be a given and I believe most landlords provide this and most letting agents would not deal with a landlord that doesn’t. From the thousands of tenants we engage with on a monthly basis in our business, the large majority are very happy with their letting agents and landlords, however no one is perfect. Focus should be on improving the image of the PRS, which can only be driven by better communication and engagement from all stakeholders, landlords, agents, government and importantly the tenant customer, or should I say the tenant consumer. Huge opportunity exists to improve the landscape for everyone involved, though the mindset of many agents and landlords needs to change quicker to make this happen.

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    1. Woodentop

      The perception that something needs to be done is misinformation and nothing but a political football by people who are not in the know, sit in ivory towers who think they know what is what and best for others or organisations who frankly are left wing socialists mumbo jumbo that revel in causing problems for landlords and agents.

       

      Case in point: in 2017 the government reported there are 4.5 million rented properties in the UK. The Property Ombudsman 2019 report confirmed they had 1,209 lettings complaints from tenants and not all were upheld. Considering every consumer group not only recommends but encourages tenants and help them to complain …. where is the problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  6. Andrew Stanton Proptech Real Estate Strategist

    It is interesting that the report says that the PRS lags behind the protection afforded by financial services etc to those who need protection, given the tissue thin protection most get in those sectors. I agree with Woodentop on his point that there already exist a number of checks and balances in the system at present, and maybe what is needed is ‘thoughts about the future’ and how better to serve the tenant customer on a holistic level.

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  7. Jonathan Stein - CEO Vaboo.co.uk

    I think we are both agreeing here Woodentop, the minority ruin it for the majority. What can’t be denied is the general treatment of tenants and service levels provided has plenty of room for improvement, to the benefit of all. In the retail world, most know everything about their customers in order to understand them better so their businesses can evolve. I’m not sure the same can be said about agents/landlords knowing their customers, and this is where the opportunity exists on a grand scale. It’s exciting.

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