The private rented sector has seen sustained and consistent growth in recent years. A structural change from owner occupation towards renting began a decade ago, long predating the economic downturn. The sector is home to an increasingly wide range of people—from young professionals to housing benefit claimants—and a growing number of families with children. The regulation and legislation governing the sector has, however, evolved over many years, often in response to problems that arose decades ago. Only in the 1980s did the sector begin to emerge from tight rent control and the shadow of Rachmanism and begin to develop. The market is a developing one which we need to help edge its way towards maturity. This requires a careful balancing act which does not upset the market developing naturally. It therefore requires not a single step but action across a number of different areas.
First, there has to be better, simpler regulation. The Government should have a wide ranging look at the legislation covering the sector and put in place a much simpler, more straightforward regulatory framework. Once it does this, it should launch a campaign to publicise this new framework, to ensure that all tenants and landlords are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Next, we need to give councils the flexibilities they require to enforce the law and raise standards. They need the freedom to implement approaches that meet the needs of their areas. They should be: afforded more flexibility over landlord licensing; given greater ability to generate resources; and encouraged to learn from each other. Local authorities should be able to recoup housing benefit and tenants the rent paid, when landlords have been convicted of letting substandard property.
Third, there is strong evidence of sharp practice and abuses by letting agents, making a clear case for a new approach to regulation. Letting agents should be subject to the same controls as their counterparts in the sales sector. In addition, it is time to crack down on the unreasonable and opaque fees charged not only by a few rogues but by many well-known high street agents.
Next, with the sector home to an increasing number of families, we have to ensure that the market offers longer tenancies to those who need them. To do this requires a cultural change and the removal of barriers, both real and perceived. We need action to speed up eviction processes where tenants breach the tenancy agreement, tackle the objections of lenders, and encourage letting agents to explore all options with landlords and tenants with regard to longer tenancies. Alongside longer tenancies, we should find more systematic, less arbitrary approaches to setting and increasing rents. There should also be a full review of local housing allowance to bring to an end the vicious circle whereby rents and housing benefit drive each other up.
Finally, we cannot escape the need to increase supply across all tenures of housing. Doing so will provide more choice, allowing renters to select housing on the basis of quality as well as price. The Government has to ensure that the benefits of its support for build-to-let development extend to the sector as a whole. It should also revisit the recommendations of our earlier published report on the Financing of New Housing Supply, to ensure it is doing all it can to support the building of new homes.
Taken together, these measures should lead to a more mature market and a sector that better meets the needs of those who live in it. It is important that private renting is seen as an attractive alternative to owner occupation.
At the moment, landlords of tenanted properties in the UK are not obliged to install a Carbon Monoxide Alarm in a rented property, even though rented properties with gas appliances must have periodic inspections by qualified registered engineers. However if a tenant were to die or be severely injured from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, the landlord could still be subject to civil or criminal prosecution so this is one area where landlords should certainly go beyond the letter of their legal obligations.
The Health and Safety Executive strongly recommends the use of audible Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms and says, before purchasing a CO alarm, always ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a CE or Kitemark. CO alarms should be installed, checked and serviced in line with the manufacturer's instructions. Particular attention should be given to the life span of the unit which can range from 1 to 6 years dependant on the manufacturer and the expected life span of the batteries; some have replaceable/removable units, others are sealed in for the life of the unit.
Always read the manufacturer's instructions for the correct and safe location for installation of the alarm. It is not possible to give specific guidance on the exact location of a detector/s which suits all types of premises and their usage. It should be noted that Carbon Monoxide is slightly lighter than air therefore fitting CO alarms at a low level is not recommended.(Carbon Monoxide CO = lighter than air sit up high. Carbon Dioxide Co2 heavier than air)
Where landlords provide battery operated Carbon Monoxide Detectors they can have a clause in the tenancy agreement making it clear that it is the tenant's responsibility to check their operation and replace the batteries as and when necessary, where as mains operated detectors would have to be installed and serviced annually by a qualified and registered technician.
Penalties announced for landlords who let to illegal immigrants.
The proposals are part of a consultation on the forthcoming Immigration Bill, now launched by the Minister of State for Immigration, Mark Harper.
Under the Bill, illegal immigrants would not get free NHS treatment and they would be prohibited from renting accommodation in the UK.
Harper said: "The consultation seeks views on the creation of a duty to require landlords to conduct immigration status checks on tenants before providing residential accommodation, with financial penalties for those landlords who let property to illegal migrants having failed to conduct the necessary checks.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the National Landlords Association, said: "If this is to work, it is vital that the system is simple, straightforward and easy for landlords to use and understand. They can only be expected to carry out reasonable checks that someone is who they say they are, and that they have the documentation to prove they have the right to be here."
The downside to all this is that the increased cost of checking details will add an extra burden on all potential tenants and even private landlords will need to charge prospective tenants for the cost of verifying their status. I have no doubt that we all fully support measures to ensure everyone in the UK is legally allowed to be here, this proposal smacks of political posturing rather than a seriously thought through policy. It is ironic that the Government is now seeking to impose a significant extra burden on landlords, making them scapegoats for the UK Border Agency's failing