An influential group of MPs tasked with scrutinising government performance has criticised Michael Gove and his department for its approach to regulation of the private rented sector (PRS).
While many agents might feel that their businesses are already facing enough red tape without RoPA or the government’s looming White Paper on rent reform, the Public Accounts Committee thinks otherwise, criticising the government for its ‘piecemeal’ approach to regulation.
Its new report, launched by chair Dame Meg Hillier (pictured) says funding of local authority policing of landlords and agents is under-funded, that tenants should be better informed of their existing rights and that the current systems of redress are ‘not fit for purpose’.
“We need to see a change in balance,” says Hillier. “We expect DLUHC to produce the promised White Paper in a timely and effective fashion and start to turn around its record on addressing the desperate housing crisis in this country.”
Ministers are also urged in the report to make it easier for councils to bring in landlord licensing schemes and to get a grip on what’s happening on the ground with proper data to end the ‘postcode lottery’ of local enforcement.
Timothy Douglas, Propertymark’s Head of Policy and Campaigns says: “The Public Accounts Committee’s report reiterates our long-held view that ‘piecemeal’ legislative changes have been introduced which ‘has made the regulatory system even more overly complex and difficult to navigate’.
“Without a long-term vision for the sector it seems that more fragmented policies are on their way with the startling statement that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is making decisions, such as on the issue of retaliatory evictions, without having all the evidence and data it needs to do so.”
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the NRLA, says: “Tenants and responsible landlords are being let down by the pitiful lack of enforcement action by councils using the array of powers available to clamp down on bad practice in the sector,” says Beadle (pictured) adds: “Too often reforms have been piecemeal, based on insufficient information to understand their true impact or how workable they are.
“Such a strategy needs to include assessing the impact of reforms on the supply of homes for rent at a time when demand for them is soaring.”
Redress scheme view
Sean Hooker (pictured), Head of Redress at the PRS says: “While redress for letting agents has been effective in identifying the shortcomings and gaps in the standards of properties, an educated and accountable agent sector that abides by a set of rules and regulations is needed.
“Landlords who experience the poor quality of some agents go it alone and this is often when mistakes and non-compliance with the law occurs.
“If property standards are to improve a professional agent sector will be an essential part of the equation.
“This with landlord redress and a register of rental properties, that have be inspected and are safe, fit for habitation and energy-efficient, would provide a robust regime for a first-class rental sector.”