RLA challenges government to ‘recognise the good’ in PRS provision

Debate opens up over interpretation of private rental stats from the latest English Housing Survey.

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The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) says latest tenant satisfaction from the English Housing Survey confound ‘myths’ peddled about the private rented sector.

Now, the RLA is challenging government to put recognising the good on the sector on a par with regulation to root out the bad.

According to the survey, 84% of PRS tenants are satisfied with their housing compared with 81% in the social rented sector.

The report also finds that 72% of private sector tenants are satisfied with the way that their landlord carries out repairs or maintenance, compared to 66% who said the same in the social rented sector.

David Smith, RLA policy director, said the results confound the “myths peddled” about the private rented sector.

“It shows once again that the vast majority of private sector landlords do a good job and look after their properties and tenants properly.

“The government should recognise this and ensure policy supports the vast majority of landlords who are individuals to continue providing the good quality homes to rent we need, whilst improving enforcement to root out the criminals who have no place in the market,” he said.

The stats show an unprecedented growth in private renting over the last two decades, doubling in size with 2.1m more households starting to rent privately since 2006 alone.

James Prestwich, Head of Policy at the NHF, acknowledged many tenants as well-served by PRS.

“However, others are not, and find themselves suffering thanks to high rents and a lack of stability.

“For instance, more than one in three private renters now have young children, who we know really struggle with the instability it can create,” said Prestwich.

The NHF analysis of the figures shows that this increase in the number of renters with young children is up by a startling 175% in the last ten years.

Meanwhile, the number of single parents who own their own home has fallen by more than a third during the same period.

“Ultimately, this happens because there just isn’t enough social housing to go round after seven years of record low levels of funding from the Government – this has forced some tenants to find unsuitable alternatives in the private sector,” said Prestwich.

“We desperately need more affordable homes – we know that we need to build 145,000 every year to meet the country’s need.

“This would allow people to rent privately if they want to, while providing affordable homes for people in need, who aren’t then being forced into unsuitable accommodation in the private sector,” he said.

Build to rent developer Moda said the survey showed 47% of PRS properties did not conform to the decent homes standard in 2006 with the figure now standing at 27%.

Build-to-rent developers – professional landlords backed by institutional capital – want the government to encourage more homes specifically for rent in a bid to drive up standards.

Moda MD Johnny Caddick sees the survey as showing the need for build-to-rent developers to continue driving up standards in the private rented sector, with only 27% of homes conforming to the Decent Homes Standard, down from 47% in 2006.

“By increasing the amount of professionally managed, high-quality rental homes throughout the UK, the burgeoning built-to-rent sector can play a vital role in improving standards across the board.

“The crucial point of build-to-rent is that whole buildings – rather than single units – are rented, which means investors can prioritise service, safety and security through professional management teams,” he said.

 

To Gavin Barry, chief executive of Prosperity Capital Partners, a build-to-rent investor said better quality homes, combined with longer and more secure tenancies, were the only way to challenge “negative connotations” surrounding renting while offering a genuine alternative to an increasingly diverse array of renters.

Data shows there has been a shift in demography of those in the PRS from a younger base in 1996-97, to an older one in 2016-17.

In 1996-97, 35-63 year olds made up 33.7% but now they make up 47.6% – a rise of more than a third.

Citing the survey, Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said more than 2.5m private renter households expect to buy a home, but fewer than 1 million have savings anywhere near achieving that – with just 957,000 households have savings of £5,000 or more.

The Survey also finds that private renters experience a high level of churn – more than half (57%) have lived in their home for less than 3 years.

One in five of those (19%) moved because their home was too expensive or in poor condition, or because the landlord forced them out.

This figure rose to 22% among families with dependent children. Landlords gave notice in 10% of cases (13% where children where involved).

“Most private renters expect to buy a home, but because only a minority currently have the savings needed for a deposit, millions are stuck in an inadequate tenure for years to come,” said Wilson Craw.

“Too many renters have had to move because of poor quality, high rents or their landlord’s whim.

“This failure of the housing market is unacceptable, especially when children are having their lives uprooted unnecessarily.

“The government must start protecting tenants and give them confidence to complain about disrepair by restricting rent rises and abolishing Section 21, the law that allows landlords to evict with no reason,” he said.

Photo: Nick Youngson

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