For too long, thousands of tenants in the private rental sector have had to put up with unacceptable and often unsafe living conditions. The lack of regulation has allowed rogue landlords to exploit tenants who pay hard earned money for seemingly little in return. The stress and burden of living in a home that is not properly maintained should not to be underestimated.
An end to retaliatory eviction
This week the government gave their backing to Sarah Teather’s bill to end retaliatory eviction in the PRS. Some industry experts have tried to down play the ‘crisis’ element described by housing charity, Shelter. For those tenants who have received a section 21 notice as a result of trying to improve their living conditions, the word crisis seems apt. Tenants feel powerless and left reeling when faced with an eviction notice and only two months to pack up, face countless viewings of unsuitable properties before settling on one, risk entering another legally binding tenancy agreement with an unscrupulous landlord or letting agent, and possibly face another short term let before starting the process all over again.
Finally the government has acknowledged that change is desperately needed in the PRS. The Housing Minister’s introduction of a model tenancy agreement and Industry Code of Practice, while only voluntary at this stage, signals a move in the right direction for good tenants and acceptance that there are currently not enough decent homes managed effectively.
More good news
From October 1st all letting agents will have to be a member of an independent government approved redress scheme. As shocking as it seems, letting agents are currently able to operate without such memberships, meaning that if a tenant filed a complaint against their letting agent and the two parties could not resolve the issue between them, there would be no further course of action to take. This ‘like it or lump it’ scenario will soon be a thing of the past. Redress schemes provide free dispute resolution services and given that a third of renters do not trust their letting agent, this is another step to improving services for tenants.
While regulation governing the behaviour of letting agents is scant, it is crucial that tenants know how to detect a good letting agent when they see one. Given the large number of amateur landlords who rely on agents to manage their properties, tenants need to be more selective when choosing a letting agent. Not only does TTV provide articles with checklists to guide tenants through this process, they are also introducing the Tenant’s Voice Approved Membership scheme to enable tenants to distinguish the good from the bad. Every letting agent marked as approved in their directory has been vetted to ensure they pass stringent criteria including membership in a redress scheme. Letting agent membership is free; rogue agents cannot buy their way into the directory, meaning that TTV approval is a sign of trust for renters.
Councils also need to start taking greater responsibility for bad landlords and force them out of the private rented sector. It is down to local and central government to prosecute publicly and effectively to make it clear that ignoring property standards is already illegal.