Landlords submit their ideas for reform to the government over private rented sector
Their submission – to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - comes in response to the government’s invitation to identify laws that should be removed or changed to streamline the running of a business.
“And, in the private rented sector, that amounts to quite a few,” says Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association.
“The new government has shown a very welcome willingness to cut back on the amount of legislation that has crippled our business sector over the last few years.
“We believe that more effective answers can be found in local accreditation schemes to encourage a new generation of professional landlords who are better trained, better informed and better able to regulate our business, themselves, without the excessive burden of increasing legislation.
“Like many other businesses a huge raft of legislation has built up surrounding the private rented sector. Landlords are normally small business people, often part time, and they can easily be tripped up and penalised by complex regulations.
“At the end of the day, these do little or nothing to protect tenants anyway. The RLA believes that, if its proposals are adopted, the weight of burdensome and unnecessary regulation on landlords would be significantly reduced.”
The case for self regulation is high on the Residential Landlords Association priority list for a legislation cull. They are asking the deputy prime minister to look at nine specific areas:
“Most importantly, responsible landlords, who are members of an approved accreditation scheme, should be allowed to regulate themselves rather than be subject to local authority control. Local authorities could then concentrate their limited resources on those landlords who flaunt regulations and do a disservice to the private rented sector and their tenants. Landlords would still be required to comply with the same legal requirements, however. It would only be the means of enforcement that would change.”
Power of entry
“An Englishman’s home is meant to be his castle but, in appropriate cases, local authority officials have powers to enter residential accommodation without notice. Where notice is needed landlords, not simply occupiers, should be made aware when their rented property is being entered. At the moment council officials try to circumvent legal requirements by relying on permission from someone they find at the property - which has been criticised by residential property tribunals. Officials should have to go through proper procedures.”
Tenancy deposit information
“Under the 2004 Housing Act a landlord or agent receiving a deposit is required to give detailed information to the tenant. But much of the information is provided by the scheme or is already readily available and the RLA has suggestions about how this can be much simplified. This would reduce a lot of repetition.”
Tenancy deposit penalty
“There is also an automatic ‘three-times’ penalty if a landlord or agent fails to protect the deposit or give prescribed information to the tenant. But there is no power to mitigate the penalty - whatever the level of minor mistake or willful flouting – and this is grossly unfair. Someone who is the victim of a mistake by the scheme is penalised in the same way as a landlord who deliberately fails to protect the deposit. The court should have more discretion according to the circumstances.”
“Under Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act landlords have to automatically obtain a court order to obtain possession from an assured shorthold tenant. The purpose of this is to protect the tenant from ‘do-it-yourself’ evictions. But this procedure should be abolished as protection can be given more simply and cheaply, without having to get a court order, using a licensed bailiff instead.”
“At the moment, if landlords with non-shorthold assured tenancies want possession they have to obtain court orders - which involves appearances at court. But there is an existing paper procedure that would avoid the need for a hearing, unless the claim was contested. This right should extend to cover cases where the court has no option but to give a possession order - such as where an owner occupier has let out his own property and wants it back.”
“Landlords of all rented residential accommodation should be able to evict squatters without the need to obtain a court order. They should be entitled use an existing different procedure involving licensed bailiffs.”
“Fire safety legislation for residential accommodation is extremely complex and deciding which laws apply can be a nightmare. This resulted from two pieces of legislation being taken through parliament at the same time and no one tried to mesh them together. Residential property could be more simply dealt with under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and, where applicable, the relevant legislation governing houses in multiple occupation.”
“Under the 2002 Commonhold Leasehold Reform Act notice has to be given where an administration charge is made. This was really meant to cover long leasehold properties but it has also been applied to short term residential lets – which was really an unintended consequence. Tenants of short term lets are protected anyway under consumer legislation so assured tenancies and shortholds should be exempt from this requirement.”