MPs TOLD TO TACKLE REDRESS AND KEEP FIXED TERM CONTRACTS
An update for all landlords following on from a Parliamentary session held on 14th November 2023 with evidence presented by our Governing Body, Propertymark:
Today, I gave evidence at the first sitting of the Public Bill Committee on the Renters (Reform) Bill calling on the UK Government to retain the option of fixed-term tenancies in the private rental sector where it is mutually beneficial for both parties.
We were the only membership body for property agents represented at the first sitting of the Committee and I discussed Propertymark's concerns as a sector and emphasised what we need to see from the Bill:
FIXED TERM TENANCIES
It’s vitally important for landlords, tenants, guarantors – and students in particular – to have the option of fixed-term tenancies to give both security and flexibility when renting.
I made the case that a fixed-term tenancy gives landlords and tenants a guarantee as to the length of time the tenancy will last. The tenant has security of tenure for the full tenancy period and the landlord knows that rent payments will be made for the whole fixed-term period.
The UK Government has told us that they want to bring in a new ground to end student tenancies. However, I said to the Minister at the Committee that no detail has been provided on the new student ground to be able to assess how it will work in reality. It’s difficult to define a student let due to the many different types of students, varying term times, mixed tenancies, and the needs of overseas students.
We remain sceptical about how the ground will work and suggest that the simplest option would be to retain a fixed-term tenancy option for students and mixed-student households.
OMBUDSMAN FOR THE PRS
Providing the existing redress schemes with more teeth and consistency in adjudication should be a priority alongside introducing requirements for landlords.
We urge MPs to sort out gaps in the existing redress schemes for lettings agents such as providing a statutory code of practice before creating a new layer of regulation. The variety of management arrangements (fully managed, let only, rent collection etc) means that any major change to systems for redress needs careful consideration so the consumer knows who and how to complain.
Whilst we support the concept of housing courts, realism suggests that change will be made more quickly within the existing system. I made suggestions to have tribunals, which can take place in public buildings, and will speed up the process. To help improve the current system, the UK Government need to focus on bailiff capacity and provide landlords with an automatic right for a High Court Enforcement Officer to enforce the Court Possession.
ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR (ASB)
I made renewed calls for a clear definition of ASB which would reduce instances of domestic violence or mental health crises being treated inappropriately. This would also allow courts to more easily prioritise and deal with genuine cases where suitable evidence could be provided.
Propertymark looks forward to engaging with the new Housing Minister, Lee Rowley MP to help him understand the issues and how we can play a part in forming the Bill to make it fully functioning for agents, landlords and tenants.
The Committee is scheduled to meet each Tuesday and Thursday up to and including 5 December to carry out line-by-line consideration of the Bill and any amendments that are tabled.