This week has seen growing calls for greater landlord regulation from MP Tessa Munt and tenant lobby group Generation Rent. The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) has countered with a report on the negative impact regulation would have on the private rented sector (PRS). Landlord and tenant groups would generally agree that more needs to be done to eliminate the rogue landlord minority. The trouble is that both sides tend to go too far in defence of their own view. With so much data available – much of it contradictory – they simply cancel each other’s arguments out rather than seek a common starting point from which they can make progress.
Take, for example, tenancy deposits. Alexander Hilton of Generation Rent says, ‘the schemes are run by landlord bodies…and there’s evidence of landlords holding tenants to ransom, negotiating a “cut” on the basis of spurious damage claims.’ Sometimes this might happen but more often it does not. Deposit statistics from January 2014 show that when there is a dispute, the full amount is more often awarded to the tenant than the landlord. The RLA’s report also criticises the tenancy deposit schemes . They are not cost effective, it claims, and the cost ultimately filters through to the tenant. Neither side is happy but their arguments come from different places: there is no common ground so no improvements can be made.
As long as you ignore the inflammatory headline, Tessa Munt’s proposals do seem constructive, at least as a starting point for serious discussion. Making sure every property comes up to the ‘Decent Homes’ standard should be a no-brainer. And it follows sensibly that landlord regulation could be put in to stop landlords from evicting tenants for six months after being told by the council they must improve a property. There are still major questions over whether a national landlord register would be effective. How do you stop the rogue element who don’t sign up? But both landlord and tenant bodies need to engage with each other more closely to improve PRS. Perhaps a full independent investigation into the state of the sector is now necessary. This might put an end to the ineffective back-and-forth between landlord and tenant lobby groups.