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MPs Discuss The Future Of Private Renting

MPs Discuss The Future Of Private Renting

The PDPLA was invited to a private reception at the House of Commons, hosted by Sir Christopher Chope MP to mark the 20th anniversary of the RLA. The event heard from Housing Minister, James Brokenshire, MP and also Shadow Housing Minister, John Healey MP and was celebrated by the publication of a series of essays on the future of the private rented sector.

RLA Chair, Alan Ward, made a point of highlighting the positive contribution that private landlords make and how they have struggled as a result of recent legislation. The MP’s present, from all parties, sang the praises of private landlords but we obviously have to wait and see if any of this positive support translates into improvements to the environment in which we operate.

A big achievement by the RLA was in bringing together so many diverse voices in the collection of essays, from the RLA to Crisis and Shelter to the British Property Federation – a collection of organisations not always on the same side.

Read on for a summary of what was discussed....

 The link to the full version of all of the items mentioned here is at the end of this article.

Alan Ward, Chair of the RLA said: “The RLA’s 20th anniversary provides an opportunity to take stock of where the private rented sector now is, and where we all want it to go. All the contributors recognise the importance of the sector in providing homes to many millions of people. As we go forward we need to ensure the sector works for tenants and good landlords alike, whilst rooting out the criminals who have no place in a modern rental market.” The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “I want to congratulate the Residential Landlords Association on 20 years of hard work helping make the private rented sector better for everyone. This is a vision shared by government and is why we have taken action to raise standards in the sector and protect tenants from substandard accommodation and unfair charges. There is much more still to be done to ensure everyone has a decent and safe home and I look forward to continuing our work alongside the RLA in the months and years to come.”

Alan Ward, RLA Chairman highlighted the fact that the number of homes in the private sector has more than doubled in the past 20 years and RLA Policy Director, David Smith commented on the fact that 84% of private sector tenants are satisfied with their housing (this is much higher than tenants in the social sector) and 72% of PRS tenants are happy with the way that their landlord carries out repairs and maintenance compared to only 66% in social housing – this completely dispels the myth the media promotes that the PRS is bad and social housing is better. He also welcomed the Housing Select Committee recommendation that a Law Commission review of all legislation affecting the sector with a view to ensure it is fit for purpose and argued for a dedicated ‘Housing Court’ to remove the delays we all face when we need to take legal action.

Polly Neate from Shelter talked of the polarisation in the sector – you are either a good landlord or a rogue, whereas in her view, this “misses out great swathes of landlords who do not fit either description” describing many of those in the middle as “having no interest in finding out more about the responsibility of providing another person’s home. These landlords may not be wilfully exploitative, but their disengagement and lack of awareness have serious consequences for their tenants and the lives being built in their properties.”

Anne Godfrey, CEO of the Chartered Institute for Health argued both for a national register of landlords and mandatory training for them, stating that poor housing costs the NHS £1.4Bn per year (presumably in treating illnesses caused by the conditions in which people live). She also talked of the need to address affordability of housing as did Polly Neate CEO of Shelter and Luke Murphy from the Institute for Public Policy Research. He also championed the RLA’s call for an end to ‘piecemeal reform of private renting’ and called instead for ‘the government to focus on long term structural reforms’. This was supported by the Institute for Economic Affairs which stated, “The heavy-handed and misdirected policies of government almost destroyed the private letting industry during the last century, reducing the proportion of the rental market made up of privately-let property from near 90% in 1918 to less than 30% when Thatcher left office in 1990”. The Institute went on to state that ‘Rent Controls push out marginal tenants and landlords, reducing the overall supply of homes – a point the PDPLA has made many times.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Exec of Crisis, somewhat predictably argued for rent controls and more pleasingly, asked for a link between local housing allowance and market prices to be re-established. He also talks of a Help To Rent scheme which definitely has merits and could address some of our concerns about housing the most vulnerable. His proposal for Help To Rent included rent guarantees, deposit bonds and the like.

Professor Kenneth Gibb, Director, UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence argued for reforms which would reduce calls for rent controls but worried about the impact of factors such as the taxation of landlords and the short lettings sector.

The need for housing law reform was also picked up by Martin Partington, Chair of The Dispute Service who said that new legislation has placed new burdens on landlords and went on to say, “the responses of all English Governments over the last decade have been pretty feeble. They have not hesitated to make the regulatory framework more complex… they should take responsibility for making it more coherent. The reality is that politicians and civil servants in England do not take renting seriously.” Strong words from the chair of a body that seeks to find common ground and to resolve disputes – but words that we have often been able to agree with unfortunately. So let’s hope that amongst all the friendly words exchanged in the House at this meeting, at least one or two of these ideas have found fertile ground in which to germinate and grow – our livelihoods depend upon it.

Read the full report and collection of essays here: http://www.rla.org.uk/futurePRSessays

Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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