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Industry calls for regulation regulator

Private renting laws and regulations are ‘like a puzzle with lots of pieces that need to be joined up’, leading industry players have told the Government.

Regulation should be put under the auspices of a single regulator who would tie all of the pieces together, said the Lettings Industry Council in a paper published as a precursor to the promised Renter’s Reform Bill.

The council, which includes a representative pf the National Residential Landlords Association, has come up with a detailed report suggesting ‘practical and workable’ changes and ‘aims to help the Government understand what can work in practice and encourage a PRS that works for all’.

With a theme of joined-up and coordinated regulation, the report lists changes that could smooth the path for abolition of section 21 notices and improvements to the court process.

Among the recommendations is a suggestion for a government-backed bond scheme for would-be tenants receiving universal credit.

Other key recommendations include:

  • Every tenancy should have a written tenancy agreement in place or at the very least a written Statement of Terms. In the absence of either of these then the Government’s model tenancy agreement should be used as the default agreement;
  • A review of the accelerated possession procedure with the aim of reducing claims;
  • Clarification of the route for dealing with abandonment cases, enabling a process without recourse to the court;
  • Priority high or persistent rent arrears cases, dropping review hearings, and employing more judges;
  • Mediation in all cases, other than where there is evidence the tenant cannot afford to pay the rent;
  • Introduction of a government-backed bond available solely for tenants on universal credit and/or in receipt of specified benefits;
  • Use of embedded Unique Property Reference Numbers across different public and private databases. Also a property portal linked to a landlord redress scheme which will ultimately provide a Landlord Register enabling direct communication with landlords and education on property safety, legislation and better remote enforcement;
  • A regulator for regulation.

More and more renting legislation and regulation has been introduced each year – so much that even diligent landlords have been confused by the complexities, said Lettings Industry Council chairwoman Theresa Wallace.

‘So far, these changes to legislation, which often come at a financial cost to the landlord, have just compounded the problems further’, she said. Further they are cited as a core reason for landlords exiting the sector, ‘leaving a shortfall of available rental properties’.

‘As a result, in 2022 we are experiencing the biggest crisis we have seen surrounding the shortage of rental property. We need to encourage investment into the market and that includes private landlord investment.

‘The Renter’s Reform Bill provides a once in a generation opportunity to improve the lives of Renter’s. However, in order to achieve maximum impact and create true strategic change, we believe it is crucial to phase in these significant changes in a considered manner over a period of time, avoiding unexpected unintended consequences which only hurt those we are seeking to protect the most – tenants.

‘This report seeks to find a balance between encouraging investment in the sector to increase available homes and ensure they are of consistent good quality through natural supply and demand competition’.