Letting agents and landlords could soon be able to review tenants’ rent payment histories if proposals from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for a national system of tenant passports becomes a reality, a direction of travel that industry leaders say the government has already embarked on.
The RICS Rented Sector Policy Paper published today outlines a national passport system using a database of all the UK’s ten million social and private sector tenants, along with a similar database of landlords.
RICS says this would help more vulnerable tenants because, by offering more details on a person’s payment track record, landlords and agents would have a greater understanding of them than currently offered by referencing checks.
The idea is a more ambitious version of several local tenant passport systems already being trailed including in Kettering, Northamptonshire where the local borough council offers a voluntary tenant passport scheme for those moving from social to private rented sector housing.
RICS says this enables potential landlords to see that they have been good tenants, even though they may have a bad credit history.
“An ever-increasing proportion of the population is looking to rent. By 2025, we know that there will be a 1.8 million shortfall in rental properties and that could mean a rise in homelessness,” says Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS (pictured, above).
“It will be hard enough for those young professionals who cannot afford to buy to find a rental home, but for those on the breadline who cannot provide the usual spread of credit references, it could prove impossible.”
David Cox of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) says that the proposed scheme sounds ‘very sensible in principle’ and that the government is moving in that direction at the moment anyway.
“We have banning orders and blacklisting of landlords and agents coming in and we are pushing very hard to make those publicy-available registers so people can go and have a look as well,” he says.
“And we are also seeing the rise in the number of selective local licensing schemes but I think it would be better to give up on these sporadic council-based schemes and just have one flat register of landlords. And if we are going to therefore name and shame landlords and letting agents, then shouldn’t we do the same for tenants; there are serial rogue tenants out there as well.”
RICS says information on the database would only be available to landlords and agents if a tenant were to give their permission to use it.