The way letting agents, landlords and properties within England’s private rented sector are regulated has been heavily criticised by a new report published this morning by the National Audit Office.
After a major probe into the sector, the ‘Regulation of private renting’ report says controls are not effective, that renting is not fair for many tenants and that too much PRS housing is not safe or secure.
The report takes the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to task for still not yet having a detailed plan to address these failings, although it is hoping next year’s Rent Reform White Paper will address this.
Nevertheless, the NAO says privately-rented properties are less likely to comply with safety requirements than other types of housing and are more likely to be classified as ‘non-decent’.
The DLUHC is criticised in the report for its piecemeal approach to regulation.
For example, letting agents must be a member of a redress scheme but landlords do not, and that it does not have a strategy for what it wants the regulation of the sector to look like as a whole
Ministers are also criticised for not having enough data to make decisions or measure their effectiveness and that in some areas they lack data on key issues where regulatory action may be required.
These include harassment, evictions, disrepair that is not being addressed, or on the costs to landlords of complying with obligations.
But the report also says that tenants are too powerless or ignorant of their rights when complaining about letting agents or landlords.
“The proportion of private renters living in properties that are unsafe or fail the standards for a decent home is concerning,” says Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO.
“The government relies on these tenants being able to enforce their own rights, but they face significant barriers to doing so.”
Mark Hayward, Chief Policy Advisor at Propertymark says: “Getting enforcement right is crucial to the success of any vision for improving the private rented sector, but it makes little sense to introduce new rules when it is not yet fully understood what does and doesn’t work within the current system.
“The private rented sector will play a pivotal role in levelling up our country and communities as we recover from the pandemic, but without strengthening current processes and providing adequate funding to local authorities, the UK Government will add further red tape to the already considerable legislative pressures that landlords now face, risking continued decline in stock levels at a time where housing supply is at a cliff edge.
“The private rented sector needs balance and must work for both tenants and landlords evenly. Figures from the latest English Housing Survey point to a steady decline in the size of the private rented sector over the last five years and should act as a warning sign to protect the sector.
“The pending Renters’ Reform White Paper presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to design a package of reforms that creates a fair private rented sector. It is paramount that the UK Government ensures it proposes a deal that does not further push landlords out of the market.”
Sean Hooker (pictured), Head of Redress at the PRS, says: “The NAO is a highly respected independent body and the evidence they have collated must be taken extremely seriously by the Government.”