28 Nov 2019

A roundtable discussion of rental industry leaders has produced a recommendation for the mandatory regulation of lettings agents.

The objective, they say, would be to “eliminate unprofessional, unqualified and unethical agents from the property sector”.

The roundtable was coordinated by the the Nationwide building society. 

It includes representatives from Countrywide, Connells Group, the Association of Residential Lettings Agents, the NLA and RLA landlord organisations and the Nationwide. 

Also involved were the Nationwide Foundation, campaign group Generation Rent, and an organisation linked with Shelter – Fair Housing Futures.

A statement from the Nationwide says there was consensus on the need for greater trust in the sector, with the following steps agreed by all parties:

– Make tenancy documents easy to understand: Contracts should be easily readable, translatable and clearly and accessibly highlight the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords;

– Role of lettings agents: More should be done to ensure that lettings agents understand and facilitate the necessary regulation at play in the rental process. It was agreed that full mandatory government regulation of lettings agents is the quickest and most effective method to eliminate unprofessional, unqualified and unethical agents from the property sector;

– Improved, simplified sources of information: There should be a single point of contact for landlords and tenants where they can seek qualified, straightforward advice regarding their respective rights and responsibilities. Giving local authorities the resources to employ more dedicated Tenancy Support Officers was discussed as was the perceived benefits of a single information portal, replacing the current system where information for both parties is scattered across different Government and sector websites, where there is no standard benchmark of quality;

– A review of insurance products on offer in the sector: There is potentially scope for more use of insurance in the sector, particularly landlords’ insurance as a route to mitigating risk and building trust. Insurance products available to landlords should also be reviewed to ensure they do not contain restrictions such as “no DSS clauses”, and to ensure that they do not inadvertently trigger unnecessary evictions.

Other issues discussed – but which did not achieve consensus – include:

– A change in language. The current language used to discuss the private rental sector is outdated and has the potential to encourage stigma. Some took the view that use of new terms like ‘home provider’ and ‘resident’ could encourage respectful relationship-building between both parties;

– More effective regulation: Some attendees felt strongly that respect and trust could not be developed between landlord and tenant without a robust regulatory framework offering tenants protection from unfair eviction, and potentially recriminatory rent increases;

– Scrapping Section 21: Some present contested that Section 21 should not be scrapped, and that doing so would not necessarily resolve any of the outstanding issues within the sector, including property standards and tenancy length issues. However, others present argued in favour of scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions in order give tenants increased security in their homes. Nationwide Building Society, Crisis, and Generation Rent all support scrapping Section 21, with Nationwide requested it is abandoned in tandem with the creation of a specialised housing court.

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