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PRS regulation - tenant protection

publication date: Mar 7, 2010
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ARLA's Ian PotterHave you ever used Tripadvisor? It’s a website that lists information about hotels and people post reports on hotels they have stayed in, rating and commenting on their visit. In theory it’s a great idea but despite Tripadvisor’s best efforts, anyone who uses the site regularly knows that you have to apply a liberal pinch of salt when reading the reviews.

The latest whizz bang idea by the Government is to launch a Tripadvisor style website where tenants can post their views on their landlord’s performance. How fair this process will be is anyone’s guess but it should give tenants, ‘practical help and protection’ says John Healey, Housing Minister.

He also announced a new housing hotline giving free advice to tenants. Both are part of a package of measures outlined in ‘The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps’, following the 2008 Rugg Review, which will “ensure tenants have the information they need to make informed decisions about the homes they rent, legal protection and certainty about their rights and extra support to help them deal with any disputes”.

Mr Healey also confirmed his intention to, “introduce the National Landlords Register and a tougher regulatory regime for letting agents to drive out the rogue elements that can tarnish the image of the sector and those who play by the rules. Over three million families live in private rented housing and while the majority of tenants say they’re happy with their homes and landlords many do face problems with and should have better help on hand. Creating Local Letting Agencies, where councils and good landlords work together will help to side-line the cowboys across the country.”

It all sounds marvellous, except, perhaps, for the landlords, who may well wonder about where their rights to privacy, security and protection from malicious comment went. Most will agree that regulation is a reasonable idea and that anything that drives away the cowboys can only help them, but will it work? Who will manage and enforce the regulation? Will it be independent and fair?

Ian Potter (pictured), Operations Manager, ARLA, said, “This is a long overdue response. 14 per cent of the population now live in private rented accommodation and the sector looks set to grow significantly. There is even greater need for a register of landlords, full regulation of agents, and changes to the AST. Therefore we support the Government in its move towards full regulation of agents, and anticipate working with the Minister and his team on how this will be put into practice. The Government must now work to convince the consumer that the PRS is a viable housing choice and one in which they can have confidence. The increase in ASTs is a good step to take but we need further details from the treasury consultation on investment in the PRS and how it can grow to accommodate demand.”

Caroline Pickering, Chair of NALS said, “It is encouraging to see positive responses to the Rugg Review Consultation and its suggestions. It shows a demonstrable commitment to the Private Rented Sector and an overwhelming consensus that raising standards in the sector is not only a focus for the industry but will best protect all involved; including consumers and landlords and the reputation of the sector.”

“The Consultation confirms that this, quite rightly, is still on the political agenda and re-enforces the sensible and achievable next steps.

“We held licensing forums over the summer chaired by Lord Richard Best, with industry and consumer groups represented. The feedback was supportive of the need for regulation of lettings and management agents. The framework which resulted showed that this is not only feasible in terms of cost but will deliver clarity and confidence to consumers with a minimum burden on the industry.”