by Richard Reed
15:09 PM, 19th October 2022, About 5 months ago 8
Richard Dawson, rental sector expert at RentGuarantor, says the Renters’ Reform Bill is flawed and explains why he feels greater regulation is the answer.
At face value, the ‘Renters’ Reform Bill’ outlined in the recent government whitepaper, A Fairer Private Rented Sector, looks as though it will bring about a great deal of positive change for the 4.4 million households living in privately rented accommodation across the UK.
Indeed, throughout the paper there is mention of ‘everyone’s right to a decent home’ and the intent to ‘reduce financial insecurities’ for renters, which the proposed reforms aim to achieve. Unfortunately, though, this bill has somewhat missed the point and runs a severe risk of bringing further challenges to an already diminished sector.
We can all agree that everyone should have the right to a decent home, and in the wake of the current cost-of-living crisis, financial insecurity for renters is something that needs to be addressed. However, the current reforms included in the proposal from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will not fully achieve this.
On the contrary, the recommendations made in this proposal could lead to more landlords pulling out of the private rental sector (PRS), which currently has nearly half as many properties as it did three years ago. This in turn will further drive demand, lead to bidding wars on rent, and ultimately drive up the cost of rental properties – meaning less affordable housing is available to those who need it.
Something needs to change, and while the ‘Renters’ Reform Bill’ is a step in the right direction, it fails to address some of the fundamental areas in which reform is rapidly becoming a necessity. We need the lettings industry to become fully regulated in order to drive a higher professional standard across the sector.
If this is achieved, more security will be provided to both landlords and tenants, driving growth in the PRS and ultimately providing better and more affordable housing across the UK.
Where the bill is missing the mark
A number of the rental reform proposals outlined in the bill look great on paper, presenting exciting changes to the sector that would give additional rights to the tenant and removing certain powers from the landlord that might be deemed as unfair.
However, while the PRS is undoubtedly in need of attention, care needs to be taken in the changes being made – as these can have far-reaching implications and the potential to cause more issues than benefits for tenants. An example of this can be seen in the aftermath of The Tenant Fee Act, which came into effect in 2019 and was met with a record 55% of landlords raising their rental prices and a large number of landlords exiting the market.
At present, we are already seeing a worryingly low number of rental properties available, with a recent report from Propertymark showing that the average letting’s agency branch had just five properties available to rent in February this year, with an average of 142 applicants on an agent’s books. With the proposals outlined in the government set to impose further restrictions on landlords, such as the abolition of ‘section 21’ no-fault evictions, the private rental sector will likely shrink even further.
Regulate the sector, instead of reforming it
Of course, the ‘Renter’s Reform Bill’ isn’t a complete misfire. The goal of creating a fairer private rental sector is admirable, and the underlying sentiment of overhaul is very much required – but as the rental market grows and the average length of tenancies extends, the current model itself, built to service short-term lets, is no longer fit for purpose.
And though landlords are often vilified in the public eye, the truth is most issues between tenants and landlords arise due to inexperience and a lack of awareness regarding regulation and standards. Currently, anyone that owns a property can rent out that property, regardless of whether they have experience or knowledge of the PRS, so it is no wonder that the sector has become rife with problems and led to a frayed relationship between tenant and landlord.
To address these issues, we need to fix the market from the ground up, starting with legislation to regulate the whole rental sector in England. The Regulation of Property Agents Working Group (RoPA) has long called for Government regulation to ensure everyone working within the industry is licensed, adheres to a strict code of practice, and holds a minimum of a level three qualification.
Not only would this ensure higher standards are met, tackling several goals in the ‘Renter’s Reform Bill’, but it would also mean a higher level of knowledge and education is needed to let property – helping to rebuild trust between landlords and tenants.
The future of the PRS
There are uncertain times facing society at large, and the PRS is no different. With the current cost-of-living crisis and the lack of properties available, people are choosing to stay in their current rental property for longer. This, of course, means less churn of stock, and should landlords choose to remove their properties from the market following the ‘Renter’s Reform Bill’ we will see further demand and higher rent.
If the new government were to replace the introduction of potentially off-putting reforms with wider regulation to support the lettings industry, guided by the industry experts behind RoPA, they can ensure the introduction of policies to protect and benefit the tenant, as well as make the sector more attractive to potential landlords.
This will reinvigorate the lettings industry, bringing more properties to the market and reducing demand, leading to fairer prices and the positive change that tenants and landlords both need.
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16:13 PM, 19th October 2022, About 5 months ago
Unfortunately this writer has written his article purely from the point of view of the renters, he seems to be completely clueless about the position of landlords who need to retain their rights of ownership over their own property.
He identified that landlords are selling up but could not give a coherent explanation as to why.
Here is a link to a recent article which actually nails the issues.
17:13 PM, 19th October 2022, About 5 months ago
Once again we see the tenants 'deserve' argument with no understanding of the real cost of providing 'high quality ' housing from the rental return value and the potential tenant pool we can now accept. This will leave too many with nowhere to go.
8:07 AM, 20th October 2022, About 5 months ago
What does this writer mean by "level three qualification"?
Does he mean landlords will have to go back to college to obtain a diploma on how to be a landlord?
8:49 AM, 20th October 2022, About 5 months ago
It is the tenants that need education more than landlords, so they understand their rights that also come with responsibilities and not blame the landlord all the time.
We need less regulations, licences etc that are just a way for the councils etc to make money.
The article mentions landlords are leaving but always fail to see the real reasons as it doesn't fit their agenda
9:28 AM, 20th October 2022, About 5 months ago
I agree with other's comments above.
From his bio, this author is a journalist, seemingly not someone who has actual experience in the sector.
It is unclear how much of the article is his own writing and how much is from Richard Dawson "rental sector expert at RentGuarantor". Elements of it are patently incorrect, such as "the current model itself, built to service short-term lets, is no longer fit for purpose" - as most landlords would attest.
Perhaps his journo skills could be put to better use by researching and reporting a balance of views for improving the PRS from both sides of the sector - not just from (?self-serving) "industry experts behind RoPA", which as a member of Property118 would not be hard to do from the LLs perspective.
There is a wealth of experience here, it's just that it doesn't seem to suit the mainstream narrative - so we are voting with our feet and selling up.
9:32 AM, 20th October 2022, About 5 months ago
The issue that truly worries me is this; Labour look increasingly likely to come to power and have pledged to rise Capital Gains Tax to match income tax. I believe them.
Given the increases in house prices from many years investing will therefore be bundled up into one year”s income, then when I sell I will be paying 45% tax instead of 28%.
This is a massive incentive for landlords to sell asap, not to mention all the other reasons.
I really do believe we are heading to a significant lack of rented housing crisis which will take a decade to sort out.
This decade will start after Government eventually acknowledges the lack of landlords as a problem. That will involve a change from MP”s regarding us as The Problem to being desirable professionals.
That’s one hell of a mental change and in itself will take many years. God help the tenants.
9:52 AM, 20th October 2022, About 5 months ago
This reads like an advert for advocating mandatory use of Letting agents.
Which will further put up rents .
Also in my experience, landlords look after "their " properties and tenants better than any letting agency i have thus far experienced .
I agree, landlords should know the rules and regulations and the ones that don't will soon end up in a sticky situation and leave the PRS .
I always find it amusing that all a person needs to owns is a one bedroom flat that he/she lets out to be given the lofty title of "LANDLORD" .
I prefer to be property manager/ owner .
14:21 PM, 20th October 2022, About 5 months ago
A Gerald Ratner moment for a rent guarantee company?