The phrase ‘rogue landlords’ has been a common one over the last few years – with dozens of articles in national press highlighting the damage done by disreputable landlords. While the increased focus has done little to rid the sector of bad actors, new plans may improve standards for tenants and most landlords.
What the white paper says
While the majority of the white paper is dedicated to other areas of the ‘levelling up’ program the government has been promoting for the last few years, the section that concerns Wirral landlords and tenants deals with their ‘mission to improve housing conditions’. The majority of the rhetoric is aimed firmly at the archetypal ‘slum landlord’ – the kind that makes the papers for excessive damp or dereliction, and (at least at this stage) should cause little consternation in the wider population of law-abiding landlords.
They set out four areas of focus – these are:
- Introducing new legislation to improve the quality and regulation of social housing – including providing performance information so that tenants can hold landlords to account and to ensure ‘quick and effective action’ is taken to rectify issues.
- A second white paper set for publication in the spring which will consult on introducing a legally binding ‘Decent Homes Standard’ for the private rented sector.
- Exploration of a ‘National Landlord Register’ to put an end to repeat offenders and allow tenants to check historical performance of landlords.
- Bringing forward other measures to ‘reset the relationship’ between landlords and tenants, including finally ending section 21 evictions.
This, the white paper states, will contribute to a ‘secure path to ownership’ and an increase in first-time buyers while reducing the number of sub-standard houses by 50%.
Responses to the white paper
As with any assortment of promises from central government, there were positives and negatives for advocates on both the landlord and tenant relationship. The Director of Generation Rent, Alicia Kennedy, for example, stated the following:
While many landlords may see this as a blanket generalisation, there is little doubt that there have been landlords that have earned the criticism – even though they may be in the minority. The truth, as in most cases, may fall somewhere between spokespeople on both sides of the debate, between Generation Rent and Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, Ben Beadle, who said:
It is certainly the case that the UK is severely underserved by the availability of publicly owned social housing, and that private landlords have been expected to fill a large and growing hole in government provision for the most vulnerable. However, Beadle is right to say that legislation has to directly tackle the root cause rather than just increasing the burden on the responsible landlord.
What this means for Wirral landlords
As we always say when topics such as these reach the level of comment – for the most part, legislation on decent homes should be of no real concern for the majority of landlords. In fact, for most landlords, their attention would be far better directed toward the potentially more troublesome changes to minimum EPC ratings that will come in to force this year.
The landlords we work with, and those we speak to, take great pride in providing properties that their tenants will be proud to call home, and legislation is unlikely to raise the minimum standard above what they are already looking to provide. Any effort to push rogue landlords out of the market should be welcomed by the rental sector at large as they undermine confidence in and cast a shadow over landlords as a whole.
What this means for Wirral tenants
Due to the number of properties that renters are likely to live in over the course of a decade or more of renting from the time they leave home, tenants are far more likely to meet one of the ‘rogue landlords’ that such measures as those outlined by the government are hoping to combat. While it remains to be seen whether the current government has the will to carry out such legislative changes, it’s a change that should be embraced.
As Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Crisis, put it:
Even though it may be a small percentage of landlords that fall into such a category, tenants have been failed both by legislation and by the availability of social housing, and too many have experienced such conditions. Hopefully changes to legislation will clear the sector out, allowing it to become a well-regulated step on the road to ownership, with social housing providing a safety-net.
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