‘Futureproof PRS policy to keep pace with technological innovation’

HCLG committee debate told of emerging web-driven “grey market” in serviced lettings by which regulation could be by-passed.

A former housing minister has told an HCLG committee debate that housing policy has to be “future proofed” to regulate technological innovation in the PRS market.

Mark Prisk MP warned the Westminster Hall debate of an emerging web driven ‘grey market’ in serviced lettings by which regulation could be by-passed.

Prisk also called for qualifications for anyone working in lettings and property management – to be agreed jointly between the industry and consumer representative groups.

Future policy, said Prisk, had to account for “an increasing number of young people who want to rent”.

With a specific debate on the future for Section 21 set for next week, members set out positions in relation to reform.

It was, the committee heard, not good enough for government to hide behind claims of Sec 21 ‘revenge’ evictions as relatively rare given their life-changing nature – policy had a responsibility to protect tenants where landlords won’t keep properties up to standard.

Shadow housing minister Sarah Jones said a landlord didn’t have be ‘rogue’ to make tenants’ lives a misery.

“If we accept Section 21 is unfair to those (tenants) who complain, why do we accept for those who don’t?” asked Jones.

PRS tenants, she said, just want the same rights applicable to other consumer groups when “you’ve got more rights buying a fridge than renting”.

The committee heard of told 12,711 evictions by bailiffs under Section 21 over 2017 – while two-thirds of private renters have no savings to fund legal challenge to eviction.

But while policy could not be drawn into the trap of assuming all PRS landlords are out to exploit tenants, there was a case, the committee heard, for councils to publish housing-related complaint and resolution data so enforcement levels can be compared.

Responding to the committee, minister for housing and homelessness Heather Wheeler said government opposition to retaliatory eviction was “undimmed”, stressing to the committee how good a word “undimmed” was.

Wheeler promised to work with everyone on a PRS that works for everyone.

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