A positive renting experience - Government private rented policy evolves

Anyone working in the private rented sector will know that, for many, there has been a progressive dilution of tenant rights. Rent Act tenancies still appear in investment portfolios occasionally but successive legislation has changed the focus, leaving renters typically with the ‘take or leave it’ option of assured shorthold tenancies, and the potential lottery of ‘no fault’ termination of their letting. 

This works very well for certain segments of the market, who may have the wherewithal to move on if accommodation is poor, but it has not served well the significant numbers of private renters who, through personal circumstances, need safety, stability and continuity in their housing provision but may not be eligible for the security that being an affordable housing tenant can provide. 

That may be about to change significantly with the Government’s publication today (16 June 2022) of its policy paper: “A fairer private rented sector”.

In truth, the private rented sector has mushroomed in recent years, and is now packed full of products in a way that housing legislation couldn’t have anticipated. PBSA and the advent of student living is a vibrant market, BtR has become a significant housing and investment offering, and private landlords are still an important market participant. 

Despite that – and undeniably the quality housing stock that the larger, institutional landlords can deliver and maintain – Government statistics show that there is a significant underbelly of private rented stock that falls short of the mark. According to its policy paper, 12% (or 1.6 million people) of private renters live in dangerously low quality homes. 

Affordability issues aside, the relative ease with which tenants can have their tenancies ended under the current renting regime clearly represents a threat over their heads, increasing the pressure on disadvantaged tenants to tolerate sub-standard accommodation – ‘no fault’ termination coupled with poor housing conditions allow less scrupulous landlords to manipulate their market. In the Government’s words, this can result in “a lack of security that hits aspiration and makes life harder for families”.

The Government also has recognised that landlords need certainty too and, without saying it, has acknowledged that the private rented sector needs to be based on clarity and co-operation. 

There’s a lot of substance in the policy paper, and the legislation will still have further to go before it goes on the books, but the direction of travel is clear. The policy intention, as part of the wider “levelling-up” agenda, is to ensure that the worst injustices of the current private rented market are addressed. Quite where the money will come from, either to fund the Ombudsman or local authority enforcement officers, or to reform the Courts to support these initiatives, isn’t clear – but the prize could be that the bottom end of this vital housing sector is significantly improved.

If landlords are able to manage their properties effectively and efficiently, and tenants are able to live in homes safely and with certainty, won’t that be better for all?


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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