Stronger enforcement and streamlining of legislation in the private rental sector is urgently required to ensure the abolishment of what is in effect currently a “two-tier” rental market whereby thousands of renters are forced to settle for “sub-standard, illegal, or even dangerous homes”, simply because people cannot afford to rent legally let properties that are only available at a “premium”, according to buy-to-let property expert, Kate Faulkner.
Faulkner, founder of PropertyChecklists.co.uk and consultancy Designs on Property Ltd., is urging major reforms in the sector in a report specially commissioned by the TDS Charitable Foundation.
She argues that there are currently a myriad of rules and regulations in the sector that are creating confusion among landlords, letting agents, tenants and enforcement bodies.
The property expert points out that a typical private landlord in England must now comply with around 150 rules and regulations, and even more if they want to let a property to someone in receipt of benefits.
Faulkner said: “There are 4.4 million rental properties in England alone so reforming the market would help millions of people. Legislation should be streamlined and funding should be put in place to support enforcement.”
She continued: “Legislation varies dramatically across the UK, with different rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Landlords are typically over 55, and employed full-time, so often struggle to keep up with what constantly changing legislation they need to be aware of, and what bodies are responsible for enforcing them.
“Trading Standards, the Home Office, the Competition and Markets Authority, and local councils all enforce elements of private rental policy, and there is no single point of guidance for landlords and agencies to make sense of where jurisdictions begin and end.”
As well as a disparity between enforcement bodies, Faulkner highlighted the fact that there are geographical differences from county to county.
In London alone, there is a huge difference in rates of rogue landlord prosecutions; according to the most recent figures available, Newham prosecuted 359, while Lambeth and Hammersmith each only managed nine.
But she insists that local authorities are not necessarily to blame.
Faulkner continued: “The issue needs to be tackled on a national level to ensure uniformity in enforcing laws designed to protect both tenants and landlords.
“Law-abiding agents and landlords are jumping through not inconsiderable hoops, and forking out to meet regulations, while the cowboys know enforcement is lax, and are cutting corners and costs.”
In the report Faulkner is also critical of policy being regularly tweaked or new legislation introduced without the necessary awareness campaigns and enforcement mechanisms.
She continued: “We need a coordinated national strategy on weeding out unenforceable, unclear, and confusing rules, and creating national standards, and enforcement policy. Whoever forms the next government must commit to backing an education campaign for those letting out property to inform them of the law, and how to raise complaints or issues.
“By tightening up on implementing legislation, tenants will know what to expect, and how to bring rogue landlords to heel. By tackling the causes of the current two-tiered rental market, the quality of the UK’s rental stock will increase, providing better homes for tenants, and better standards for landlords and agents.”