14:57 PM, 23rd April 2012, About 12 years ago 7
Landlords are the wrong target for buy to let regulation, according to the latest behind-the-scenes thinking.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the ‘rogue’ landlords debate, politicians and law makers are looking at tightening the rules for letting agents.
According to an insider close to the powers-that-be looking at regulating the private rental sector, letting agents are easier to control than landlords.
The main reason is they have an office whereas landlords can live overseas, operate through proxies or limited companies and are often difficult to track down to enforce legal infringements.
Letting agents are more likely to have an office which is open in business hours and allows easier inspection of documents.
“That’s why trading standards officers have a new power to inspect letting agent records under the new energy performance certificate laws,” said our source.
“Letting agents are easier to pin down and carry records for a large number of landlords, so visiting one agent is cheaper, quicker and easier than dealing with lots of landlords.”
The energy performance certificate (EPC) rules that came in to force on April 6, 2012, included an additional power allowing trading standards officers to demand sight of documents from letting agents.
Our source also hinted that the Office of Fair Trading would need some time to see how the new EPC powers work before deciding whether to introduce further regulatory powers against letting agents.
Housing minister Grant Shapps has gone on record several times to state that landlords and letting agents are unlikely to see regulation during this parliament.
However, the move is likely to be high on Labour’s agenda should Ed Milliband win office – the last Labour government had plans in the pipeline for a ‘rate your landlord’ website for tenants and a national licensing scheme for landlords.
Both were scrapped as unnecessary and too expensive by the coalition.
Currently over 3,000 have signed a “Save the buy-to-let mortgage” Government e-petition. There is also an e-petition calling for “Compulsory licensing of Lettings Agents to protect Landlords and Tenants”.