A leader of the pro-tenant activist group Acorn has told MPs that “one man bands” are more likely to exploit tenants than large scale landlords or corporations.
Ben Leonard, the senior remote organiser and policy and research officer at Acorn, has made the claim while giving evidence to the committee stage of the Renters Senior Remote Organiser and Policy and Research Officer, ACORN union
He told MPs: “From the evidence that I have seen, it seems that mainly smaller landlords are selling up to bigger landlords, which from the point of view of the tenant can be a step forward.
“Many tenants have a better experience dealing with corporate landlords than with one-man bands, who do not know the regulations, cut corners and will take advantage of vulnerable people.
“Generally, you do not get that with corporates. From the point of view of tenants, it is better to deal with larger, more professional organisations.”
Elsewhere in his evidence Leonard suggested there were various ways the Renters Reform Bill could be beefed up.
One way was to force landlords to give some form of financial assistance to any tenant asked to leave a rented property, even if all procedures were followed to the letter.
Leonard told MPs: “It could be a simple payment, like a rent repayment, to help with that transition, or it could be that, from the moment the notice is issued, it is illegitimate to collect rent on that property and no further rent needs to be paid.
“That would go some way to, first, put off rogue landlords from abusing the power and, secondly, make the circumstances of the tenant’s life more liveable.
“Moving house is a massive hassle, especially if you have dependants, so if that is being foisted on you by an outside force, there is no reason why that outside force should not support you in some way.”
He also advocated incentivising tenants to go public with complaints about landlords, via the property portal proposed in the Bill.
He called for the creation of “an army of enforcers who are properly incentivised to report landlords who are not up to scratch. The property portal can play a big role here.
“More transparent information inherently gives renters more power to put pressure on and see when their landlord is lying to the authorities.
“If a landlord says, ‘We have met these standards’ on the property portal, a tenant can look at it and go, ‘Well, that’s not true, and I can point to all the problems that exist,’ and then there is an incentive for them to pursue it.
“I speak as someone who has pursued a rent repayment order in the past. I won 80% of my rent back, but it was a long, gruelling and difficult process, with no access to legal aid. The financial incentive was quite strong, but there were times when I felt like giving up.
“There are many ways to solve that problem, but making the process straightforward for tenants and properly incentivising and supporting them in it, alongside local authority enforcement, are important.”
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