Addressing the Commons last week, Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said more could be done to improve the private rented sector (PRS). While he rightly drew attention to the high-satisfaction rate amongst tenants, he also highlighted tackling rogue landlords, increasing the number of homes rented by large-scale professional operators and stimulating more house building as top priorities. Overall, his comments showed a healthy awareness of the good work being done by the majority of landlords and a willingness to let them get on with it. Although these sentiments are welcome, much more detail is required in other areas. Mr Hopkins did get the ball rolling with a shortlist of Build to Rent projects to stimulate house building but when it comes to rogue landlords it is unclear precisely how ‘politicians, practitioners and professionals [will] challenge the behaviour’. Specific plans are needed to help the tenants of such landlords as well as to improve the reputation of good landlords.
A further effect of dealing with rogue landlords would be to convince the public that renting can ultimately be just as attractive as home-ownership. This is important since PRS will be a cornerstone of future housing policy. Another key way to help achieve it would be through longer-term tenancies, a fact highlighted in a recent EU discussion paper. This would encourage more people towards renting instead of home ownership, helping to stabilise house prices, something which may well prove beneficial for everyone in the long term. The government should certainly take note of the EU’s conclusions in this instance.
The focus which PRS in the UK is coming under from both the government and Europe underlines its ongoing strength and importance. But it is vital that everyone can voice their opinions on what can be done to improve the sector. Eviction firm Landlord Assist, for example, is pushing for evictions to be streamlined, since court proceedings are currently subject to lengthy delays. This should benefit landlords and good tenants alike, since it would free up more properties more quickly. The question is whether the timing is sensible when the reputation of landlords must be protected. The risk of damaging headlines about ‘making evictions easier’ could well see the government avoiding such proposals.