PRS landlords ‘need help’ over rights and responsibilities

Call for greater investment in communication of PRS laws for tenants and stronger enforcement of landlords and agents.

More than 1,500 of Hackney's private lets out of reach for benefit claimants

One of the UK’s leading property experts wants greater investment in communication of PRS laws for tenants and stronger enforcement of landlords and agents.

Kate Faulkner claims that while legislation has been introduced to improve the private rented sector (PRS), it is not being properly communicated to landlords, agents and tenants.

Writing in her seventh report funded by the TDS Charitable Foundation, Faulkner highlights the ever-increasing financial and administrative pressures on landlords and agents due to legislative changes.

Of over 147 new pieces of legislation, covering the sector, more than half have been introduced since buy-to-let mortgages were launched in 1996.

While the percentage of homes in the PRS classed as ‘non-decent’ has reduced (47% in 2006 to 28% in 2015), there has been an increase in real terms as the sector has grown from 1.2m in 2006 to 1.3m over the same period.

Faulkner said: “Due to the rising costs to good landlords and a scant enforcement of PRS regulations, there is an incentive for some landlords and agents to act outside the law to increase their profit margins.

“The increased costs to landlords of buying a property, then letting it legally and safely, means that in some cases rents have increased beyond the means of some tenants. Reputable landlords and agents are being penalised financially for abiding by the law.

“It can create a vicious cycle and a two-tiered rental market, which the legislation was never intended to create.

“The problem, as I see it, is that bills are introduced on the sector all the time, but aren’t backed with a communications plan or funding for enforcement. As I wrote for a previous TDS Charitable Foundation report; legislation is meaningless without enforcement.

To Faulkner, myriad legislation means confusion for tenants that rogue landlords and agents can exploit in offering sub-standard homes as tenants don’t know their rights.

“In reality, tenants hold the power in terms of accepting or rejecting poor or dangerous properties, although where supply is scant, this power disappears,” she says.

Faulkner calls for a “more concerted” approach to educating tenants on their rights.

“Nobody could have escaped hearing about the introduction of GDPR, but when rental laws are introduced, affecting millions of people across the country, there doesn’t appear to be the same public awareness campaign.

“That is not to say that legislation introduced has been wrong-headed or ineffectual, but it could have had a greater positive impact on the sector if it were backed with enforcement and communication,” she says.

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