Landlords have had their fair share of new rules and regulations to deal with over the past few years, and it seems self-evident that more are on the way.
Indeed, as I write this piece today, the market has learned that new electrical installation inspection and testing is going to be required for tenanted properties from 1 July this year, or 1 April next year for existing tenancies.
It means that letting agents/landlords are going to need to check, inspect and test the electrical installation of each individual property every five years – and that needs to be done by a qualified person. Electricians are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee at all the extra work, but if you expect me to rage against the introduction of this measure, then you’re sorely mistaken.
The vast majority of landlords take their responsibilities towards their tenants incredibly seriously, and clearly ensuring that the electrics within any home are working well, and are not a danger to those living there, is an important part of the job of being a landlord.
Part of me believes that, for many, this type of inspection is already a normal part of the process of reviewing properties anyway, and I suspect many letting agents/landlords already do this as a matter of course. The fact that it is likely to be etched into law in the very near future is a positive for the market, and I’ve been pleased to see that ARLA have announced their support and welcomed the move.
We within the buy-to-let/PRS industry recognise the importance of such measures, and I think we also acknowledge that bad landlords exist, letting out poor quality properties and are deserving of the punishment and action that is meted out to them.
Conversely, we could say the same about poor or problem tenants, and the belief has to be that as long as there is a level playing field in terms of the way such tenants can be dealt with, then stakeholders can’t really say fairer than that. Whether we currently have that balance, however, is something of a moot point.
But what we’d all want to see is a high standard of property being let to tenants and if it requires further Government action to force this message through, and to ensure landlords get to these levels, then so be it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the industry is overwhelmingly in support of other measures which are coming down the track. It seems like it’s already a done deal, but the banning of Section 21 (no-fault) evictions which was part of the Conservative Party manifesto and appeared within the Queen’s Speech, would perhaps benefit from a reassessment, or at the very least may need to be combined with a review – and change – of Section 8 which covers an eviction due to a tenancy agreement being broken.
Many in the sector are concerned about the impact such a measure would have on fixed-term tenancies, especially if the tenant is not compelled to move at the end of that term. Indeed, how could such tenancies go ahead without knowing that the tenant was going to agree to move at the end of it? Plus, without a more robust process in place for landlords to remove tenants who have not, for example, paid their rent or caused trouble in the local neighbourhood, then we might see a further impact on the supply of property into the PRS.
Given the overwhelming need for private rental property, I would find it hard to believe that this Government in particular, would be happy with such a scenario playing out. And this could hardly be deemed an ‘unforeseen circumstance’ given so many in the industry have warned of the consequences.
So, while I think we are all in agreement around measures that create safer private rental properties, and give peace of mind to both tenant and landlord alike, we also need to ensure that other rules and regulations – which may not illicit such positive outcomes – are reviewed and are fair to all.
We all want to protect tenants and provide them with a positive rental experience that ensures they stay in properties for as long as they wish, but we also want to give them a choice and ensure we have a sustainable sector for many years to come. These points are not mutually incompatible but may well require our policy- and law-makers to look at these issues in the round, rather than focusing on one ‘side’ only.
Bob Young is CEO of Fleet Mortgages