Local authorities are out of touch with the reality of the UK’s private rented sector. And that distorted view is leading to a situation where ill-considered further regulations are being considered and imposed, when they may not be necessary.
“In 2013, private individuals put an estimated £20bn into providing much-needed housing in the UK, so it’s frightening that councils simply don’t seem to understand the approach and motivations of most landlords or how successful private lettings businesses work,” said NLA chief executive Richard Lambert.
Speaking to a seminar of local government housing professionals at the New Local Government Network, he added: “There is an expectation, especially from the political level, that licensing is some kind of panacea, which will resolve everything and introduce new standards and requirements, when in fact they already exist, but are just not effectively enforced.”
This misunderstanding has led to unhappy situations such as in London’s borough of Newham, where the local authority has managed to alienate responsible landlords in the borough by pushing through a landlord accreditation scheme.
“Time and again, we find that where licensing proposals are being considered – and in some cases where they are already in place – no thought or budget has been given to ensure that the required enforcement action, which is inevitably needed, can take place,” added Lambert.
“The responsible landlord community should be the strongest advocate for the drive for higher standards and tougher action against rogue operators and criminals. But councils won’t be able to build that alliance if landlords have no confidence in their council’s understanding or awareness of what’s really happening in the rented sector”.
Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, also recently suggested that, with proposed rent controls – a Labour party suggestion – and greater licensing, “you could be forgiven for thinking that war had been declared on the British landlord”.
In an article carried in the Daily Telegraph, he argued: “A growing private sector has a key role to play in tackling the housing shortage. Rather than bashing private landlords, we should help them to flourish.”