Most people may be on their holidays but UKALA have been involved in high level conversations with Government about affordability levels in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).
Last month saw us attend the inaugural meeting of the Government PRS Affordability and Security working group. The meeting, which was chaired by the new Minister for Housing and Planning Gavin Barwell MP, came amongst growing parliamentary concern about the high initial costs of renting and the barriers that presents to some in the sector.
We reiterated our position that any outright ban on letting agent’s fees would be counter-productive, with these legitimate business costs only being passed onto tenants in the form of increased rents. This can clearly be seen in Scotland where rents have increased in some cases by double digits.
We highlighted the need for complete transparency with both tenant and landlord before contracts were signed, so that both parties know what they are paying and importantly know what they are getting for their money.
The group discussed a number of different options for increasing standards and ensuring that existing laws and legislation, some of which has only just come into force, are allowed time to bed in before more regulations are introduced with potentially unforeseen negative consequences for the sector.
A prime example of a law that needs both time and increased enforcement by councils is the requirement of letting agents to clearly display their fees both on their premises and online. UKALA argued that these need to be clearly marked for the consumer as per any restaurant and, crucially, on their websites as well.
Now that councils can keep proceeds from some fines, there is scope for innovative councils (with possible initial starter loans from central government) to run targeted enforcement drives to drive out criminal letting agents from the sector.
As long as these were not vindictive but driven by fairness and common sense, then UKALA would welcome, and indeed support, such initiatives. They should after all be happening anyway.
The group agreed to meet again twice and make recommendations to Government in October. We will keep members posted.