PRS an attractive prospect for rogues, expert claims

There’s plenty of lettings legislation to keep abreast of, an ensuring that you are keeping compliant is a time-consuming and tough job. However, it must be done!

However, this tangled web of complex laws and requirements is a tempting option for those looking to make a quick buck, according to housing market commentator Kate Faulkner, who believes the lack of enforcement within the PRS is creating an incentive for rogue landlords and agents.

Faulkner, of the TDS Charitable Foundation warned that despite 147 pieces of legislation in place to police the PRS, with more than 50% being introduced since 1996, more rented homes that ever are being classed as ‘non-decent’, suggested that either the legislation is not effectively managed, tenants or landlords are unaware of it, or people are just choosing to ignore it.

Using data from the English Housing Survey, Faulkner’s report highlights that while the number of homes in the PRS considered to be non-decent homes fell from nearly 47% in 2006 to 28% in 2015, the growth of the sector means the absolute number of these properties has actually grown from 1.2m to 1.3m. A non-decent home is one which presents issues such as overcrowding, damp, fire risks or dangerous electrics.

The report accepted that whilst much of the legislation was put in place to make the sector safer, many people, tenants, landlords and agents alike, are still unaware of the standards, so are not able to gauge when their property has dropped below what is acceptable on the scale.

As improvement costs increase, there is also a concern that rental process will eb boosted to compensate, making good accommodation within the PRS a luxury that few can afford. This further paves the way for rogue landlords, and facilitates dodgy dealings, as more and more tenants will be forced to accept sub-standard living accommodation in order to afford a property.

The report said that while much of the legislation introduced had made properties safer – such as rules on gas safety – many tenants are unaware of what acceptable standards are for a property.

It also warns that the cost of improvements can mean rents go up and it is harder for tenants to afford decent homes.

With a lack of regulation of agents and poor enforcement, this can create a perfect environment for rogue landlords and agents to operate and take advantage of vulnerable tenants. Due to the rising costs to good landlords and a scant enforcement of PRS regulations, there is an incentive for some landlords and agents to act outside the law to increase their profit margins. The increased costs to landlords of buying a property, then letting it legally and safely, means that in some cases rents have increased beyond the means of some tenants. Reputable landlords and agents are being penalised financially for abiding by the law. It can create a vicious cycle and a two-tiered rental market, which the legislation was never intended to create. The problem, as I see it, is that bills are introduced on the sector all the time, but aren’t backed with a communications plan or funding for enforcement. Myriad legislation can be confusing for tenants, and rogue landlords and agents often get away with offering sub-standard homes as tenants don’t know their rights. In reality, tenants hold the power in terms of accepting or rejecting poor or dangerous properties, although where supply is scant, this power disappears.

Sarah Faulkner, of the TDS Charitable Foundation

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