Are Government Ministers finally getting serious about private renting?
On 3rd March the Cabinet Office organised a full day’s meeting to consult with organisations representing private tenants, and a similar meeting with landlords is scheduled.
The role of the Cabinet Office is to support the Prime Minister and, in partnership with HM Treasury, take the lead in certain critical policy areas. So what does this unexpected interest in private renting mean? Can it be that Ministers are finally willing to consider what effective measures are needed to improve the deal that private renters currently get?
Advice4Renters went along to the meeting and the civil servants from the Cabinet Office, and their colleagues in the Department of Communities and Local Government, (which is responsible for housing), assured us that Ministers are listening and really do want to address the problems in the private rented sector.
There was no shortage of ideas coming forward, ranging from rent caps to a ‘Landlord deposit’ to match the tenancy deposit, both of which should form a pot of money to be used for repairs.
We argued strongly that there should be a National Licensing Scheme to provide consistent standards so that both landlords and tenants know what to expect. This includes the condition of the property, health and safety measures and competent management.
At present, each local Council runs their own schemes and each one has slightly different requirements and different ways of assessing whether the Manager is ‘fit and proper’. Even within the same local authority there are often different and overlapping schemes.
A company called Rentr have produced an amazing app, which maps all the current licensing schemes. There’s a charge to register but you can see a demo.
The main point is that the whole system is incredibly complex and for landlords it’s also very expensive. Remember, most landlords will try to recover these costs by jacking up your rent, so it’s in everyone’s interests to keep the costs down, and a national scheme will have to be cheaper.
A National Scheme should also have a National Public Register, so you’ll be able to check up on any address to see if it’s licensed, before you sign the tenancy agreement.
I’ll be blogging regularly about the issue of National Property Licensing because it’s the biggest bee in my bonnet. If we can evidence enough support, we’ll be seeking a meeting with the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP. We hear that he really does understand housing issues (which may mean he won’t be housing minister for long!) so we need to get to him pretty soon.
If you’ve got your own ideas about how you think National Property Licensing should work, let’s hear them.
I’ve been championing private tenants’ rights for over 30 years. I really should have retired by now but I can’t bear to walk away from the current situation when private renters have never had it so bad.