Monday, 16 March 2020

Ideas for improving private rented housing

Our MP, Tulip Siddiq, is leading a debate on housing in Parliament tomorrow. It will address in particular the private rented sector. She asked for our members’ experiences and ideas for her speech and we provided the list. We look forward to hearing the outcome of the debate.

  • UK housing market underwent a notable change in the last 10 years. The percentage of house ownership declined and house rental increased. The rental market has tilted in favour of Private Rental Sector (PRS) and overtaken Social Rental Sector by 3% in 2017. 
  • The Government needs to steep up financial stimuli of Social and Affordable Rental Market in order to increase not only the numbers but also the types of affordable products: Community led Housing, Co-Housing, and similar
  • The number of private renters in long term rentals is steadily increasing while the number of older private renters is expected to double over the next decade. 
  • If PRS continues to provide a large proportion of rental market, it is important to provide tenants with secure tenancies while balancing landlords’ needs. 
  • The current regulatory framework lacks choice of tenancy agreements, providing only short term Tenancy Agreement of up to 1 year and the infamous Section 21 Notice enabling tenants’ evictions. This is particularly hard for tenants with families and older tenants and the Government should speed up its planned reform. 
  • A consultation was launched on 2 July 2018 on overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies. This proposed a new three-year tenancy model with a six-month break clause and even longer, six year tenancies. When are they becoming available? Longer term Tenancy Agreements would provide tenants in PRS with more security and improve the sector. 
  • Tenants are currently responsible for Council Tax even though landlords have benefitted in recent years from ever-increasing property values. One way of correcting this is to make landlords responsible for Council Tax without this simply reflecting in increasing costs of rents to tenants.
  • Local authorities need to be given more enforcement powers. Currently, Secretary of State Approval is needed to regulate HMOs in more than two wards. This kind of policy is reactive and prevents local authorities from proactively reviewing landlords that have complaints filed against them and doing spot checks to ensure standards. 
  • Minimum space standards, currently governing all SRS and HMO rentals, should extend to the entire PRS. 
  • Minimum acceptable Energy Certificates, EPC level C, should be made a prerequisite for landlords in PRS and the Government should provide tax breaks in order to encourage it.
  • Most Buy to Let mortgage lenders discriminate against those on benefits (including pension credit.) These restrictions should be lifted, giving all tenants the right to choose if they want to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord, working with lenders to remove mortgage terms that prevent landlords renting to benefit claimants and ending the Local Housing Allowance freeze which has meant benefits bear little resemblance to rents.