There are some interesting proposals.
Housing problems and statistics
A large part of the document is talking about how awful it all is (with quotes) and how some of the worst standards are to be found in the private rented sector (PRS). For example:
- The PRS represents 16.5% of the total households in England
- Nearly 1/3 of all PRS households have children and nearly 15% of all couples with children live in the PRS
- The proportion of private rented stock which is ‘non decent’ is 35%, compared to 22% owner occupied homes and 17% of social housing
- Safety hazards are in 21% of PRS homes compared to 7% in the social sector
- In 2010/11 local authorities received over 86,000 complaints and have said in the past that they are aware of 1,477 serial bad landlords
The report goes on to point out the problems that local authorities have with enforcement issues, and the fact that many PRS landlords are well meaning but lack knowledge of their legal obligations.
The report also refers to the ‘retaliatory eviction’ problem and the general costs to society of poor housing.
To find out what the main suggestions are to resolve these problems you have to read to the end. They are:
1. A national register of landlords
- Assist local authorities identify landlords
- Allow distribution of information to and communication with landlords
- Help with deal with the problems of tax evasion (apparently costing the Treasury some half a billion pounds)
Item 4 below also indicates that the right to operate as a landlord will be linked to being on the register.
2. A new national private rented property standard
Which would include current minimum standards on
- Tenancy deposits
- Energy efficiency
- Property conditions
- Response times and repairs
The report goes on to say that this will be linked to incentives which will only be available to properly registered landlords (including with HMRC)
3. Improved local enforcement
- Remove red tape and make it easier for local authorities to introduce licensing schemes
4. Tougher sanctions on bad landlords
Which will involve
- reviewing penalties and sentencing guidelines (presumably by making them less derisory)
- assessing how they can stamp out retaliatory eviction
- removing bad landlords from the national register so they can no longer operate as landlords
There is also an interesting paragraph which follows this which refers to potential benefits to compliant landlords:
- supplying renters from local housing registers (probably not much of an incentive in the current housing shortage)
- direct payment of benefit to PRS landlords and
- an improved legal process to help landlords evict non paying tenants and tenants who commit anti social behaviour including criminal damage
If implemented these proposals could go a long way towards resolving current problems.
In particular if the right to use section 21 is linked to landlords housing register, then landlords whose properties are not up to standard could be denied the right to use the section 21 procedure until they are compliant.
This is in my view by far the best way to deal with the retaliatory eviction problem.
I also believe that the only way to encourage longer term tenancies (apart from Rent Act 1977 like legislation which would destabilise the industry) is by changing the eviction process to make it easier for landlords to evict genuine bad tenants. I discussed this previously here.
So overall I am quite impressed with the proposals. However as always the devil will be in the detail and we will have to wait and see whether these are serious proposals or just window dressing.
The only thing I really take issue with is the suggestion that these are ‘new ideas’. For example a lot of them appeared last year in my bigger picture ebook.
You can download the policy document from >> here.