Are we seeing the demise of the ‘rogue’ landlord?

There are many good landlords in the UK, but there is a small minority of ‘rogue’ operators that have become a major scourge for renters.

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Indeed, in a tight rental market many people have been forced to live in poor housing run by landlords failing to do even the bare minimum to keep up their properties.

This approach is clearly outmoded and out-of-step with an increasingly service-oriented and technology-driven marketplace – and yet it can still be seen across the rental housing spectrum, including privately-owned affordable lettings.

There are clear signs, however, that things may be looking up for beleaguered British renters.

The UK government seems intent on tackling the problem, announcing earlier in the year that it is boosting funding to aid councils in cracking down on ‘rogue landlords’ and more recently announced plans to abolish section 21 evictions.

But what promises to really drive out the minority of irresponsible and reckless landlords is the rapid spread of a new class of professional landlord – fuelled in the private sector by major growth in build-to-rent properties, many with an affordable housing component.

Figures published by the British Property Federation earlier in the year showed number of build-to-rent properties under construction in the fourth quarter of 2018 up by nearly 40% from the year before, while the number of those complete increased by close to 30%.

As more modern, build-to-rent developments come onto the market – well-planned projects that often come with community amenities such as gyms, event rooms, concierge services, free WiFi and dedicated maintenance teams – renters are experiencing a new type of landlord that takes more of a “hotel-management” approach to private rental properties.

Many of these developments are required by local authority planners to contain affordable housing – 20% of the units according to government guidance.

The result of the emergence of build-to-rent is that expectations among renters – especially young, working age tenants – will begin to force out landlords renting subpar premises, as people realise increasingly that there are better options on the market.

At MRI, we have seen major growth in the uptake of our software for build-to-rent properties over the past year, with roughly five times as many clients seeking capability to manage facilities for these types of developments as would have two years ago – with many looking for the functionality to run features and services such as resident portals, package delivery management, automated inspections of rental units changing hands, renter credit profile tracking and virtual tours.

What’s more, a recently published MRI survey of CEOs, directors and top managers revealed that 82% expect the UK to continue to see more build-to-rent developments beyond the next 12-18 months.

The growing footprint of build-to-rent properties promises to have an ongoing positive impact on the UK rental sector overall as it continues to drive improvements in the quality of residential rental stock and the management of buildings and estates – with well-maintained, professionally managed communities and modern amenities becoming more of the norm.

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