Nine changes to build a vibrant PRS that works for all

Nine changes to build “a vibrant PRS that works for all”.

The Government is determined to press ahead with the abolition of Section 21. Its plans to offer more protection to tenants come at a time when many private landlords have already left or are planning to leave the industry. While I don’t believe that’s the right option, I understand the reasons. Attempts to tackle the issues of substandard properties and rogue landlords have introduced a complex and confusing raft of regulation. This has made the sector unattractive to many small-scale investors. Consequently, they are reducing the supply of affordable rented homes.

The Renter’s Reform Bill could backfire and drive more responsible landlords out of the sector, but it doesn’t have to. It could be an opportunity to implement substantial but practical changes which would work for all stakeholders. The Lettings Industry Council (TLIC) has been studying all the issues and in a 28-page report, sets out proposals which would, in their words, “encourage a vibrant PRS that works for all.”

The report is thorough, up to date and considers a broad range of issues that affect the industry. I’ll sum up the recommendations:

Nine changes to build “a vibrant PRS that works for all”
  1. Every tenancy should have a written tenancy agreement or statement of terms. Without either, the Government’s model tenancy agreement would apply.
  2. Introduce a government or local authority bond scheme for tenants on Universal Credit or specified benefits. This would ensure support for the deposit problem is targeted.
  3. Implement a system of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRN) to enable the capture of all relevant property safety records.
  4. A property portal could provide an effective Landlord Register, enabling direct communication with landlords on relevant issues such as legislation and safety.
  5. Introduce a single regulator for the industry with clear signposting for the different users.
  6. A review of the accelerated procedure is required. This would reduce the listing of PRS claims and ease the strain on the legal system.
  7. Clarify a route for dealing with abandonment where the tenant has already vacated the property to reduce unnecessary court cases.
  8. Prioritise cases with high or persistent rent arrears, drop review hearings and employ more judges to handle the workload.
  9. Use mediation wherever possible to minimise costs and reduce court hearings.
A springboard, not a death knell

I’ve studied the report and believe we should back its proposals. As an industry, we need to deliver a framework where Section 21 is not needed, where tenants and landlords have the flexibility they need and where lettings agents’ professionalism is a given.

Let’s hope the legislators take note and deliver workable, effective reform. If they do, rather than seeing the abolition of Section 21 as the death knell of the sector, it could provide the springboard for a great future.

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December 2022