Monday, 10 March 2014

Private rented housing

Making progress on some issues often appears to take a long time, even when there is agreement. I have written previously about the All-Party Select Committee’s lengthy investigation and report on private rented housing and the government’s response to our recommendations.

The private rented housing sector is of increasing importance. According to the latest figures, 18% of households now live in the private rented sector. That growth did not suddenly happen following the banking crisis of 2008; it had been taking place before that over a period of time. Indeed, it has been the only growing housing sector since 2002, when owner-occupation started to fall as a percentage of households.

It is now home to a wider range of households, particularly families with children who want more security. When people with children change their home that often means changing schools, and that creates substantial disruption to family life. We went to Germany, where a far greater proportion of households rent than in the UK, to find that people literally have tenancies for life, and can pass it on so that their family members can succeed to it.

We saw good private rented standards that we ought to seek to emulate here. We made many recommendations for the government to act on. Having initially dismissed our recommendations for mandatory carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in private rented homes and for five-yearly checks of the electrical installations, the Government is now consulting on them.

However, there are two specific recommendations which the government has rejected so far. The first is the flexibility of local authority powers to raise standards and to deal with rogue landlords, and the second is the regulation of letting agents.

And the government has yet to respond positively to our call for simpler regulation, as we currently have a bewildering array of legislation and regulation. Given its claim that it wants to tackle red tape, such refusal is surprising.