Friday, 25 January 2013

Protection not red tape

We face the biggest housing crisis in a generation.

House building is down. Homelessness is up. People struggle to get mortgages. We have a rapidly-growing private rented sector where too many lack security, have to pay ever-increasing rents, now at a record high, and suffer poor quality accommodation. Yet, the budget for affordable homes has been cut by 60%.

As a result of the growing housing crisis more and more people are locked out of home ownership and are coming to live in the private rented sector. Last year the private rented sector overtook the social rented sector for the first time in nearly half a century. There are now 3.6 million households in the private rented sector, including more than one million families with children.

Now the government is failing to protect tenants and landlords alike from unscrupulous letting agents. It has rescinded the plans for regulation which were backed by tenants, landlords and responsible agents. It is failing to tackle the confusing, inconsistent and opaque fees charged to tenants and landlords by letting and management agents. It is failing to protect tenants from rogue landlords and raise standards in the sector by not implementing the plans for compulsory written tenancy agreements and a national register for landlords.

There are more than 4,000 managing and letting agents that are entirely unregulated - in that they don’t even belong to voluntary bodies which encourage a responsible approach to letting and management practice. And, bizarrely, while estate agents, who hold very little money on behalf of their clients, are regulated, letting agents who hold significant sums on behalf of landlords and tenants are not.

Citizens Advice Bureaux found that 73 per cent of tenants they surveyed were dissatisfied with the service provided by their letting agent, and that a significant number of people have difficulties contacting agents, and suffer serious delays in getting repairs.
A report by Which?, “Renting Roulette”, letting agents ranked second from bottom across 50 consumer markets.

In Opposition the current Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, backed regulating letting agents. Now he calls basic protections for tenants and landlords “bureaucracy and red-tape”...

It’s time for action to protect good tenants, agents and landlords and to drive out the rogues.