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Tories pledge more regulation of private rental sector

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The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has pledged the Conservative government will introduce more regulation to the private rental sector to protect tenants and control agents.

Sajid Javid unveiled new measures at the Conservative party conference, including a compulsory landlords’ redress scheme and ombudsman. “We will take steps to protect renters from poor practice,” he said.

“First, we will require all agents to be regulated so that they meet strict minimum standards. Second, we will make it compulsory for all landlords to be covered by a redress scheme with an ombudsman, so that tenants have a quick and easy resolution to disputes. Third, we will consult with the judiciary on a new specialist housing court, so that we can get faster, more effective justice.”

In addition, he promised that at the Autumn Budget there would be incentives for landlords who were doing the “right thing”, offering tenancies of at least 12 months duration and allowing three months’ notice — although, he didn’t specify what these incentives would be.

The policies may be seen as somewhat of a u-turn by the government after Conservatives twice killed legislation in the last two years that would have forced rented homes to be made fit for human habitation.

Letting fees ban

He told delegates at the conference that recent growth of the private rented sector meant there was a need for further and faster regulation. The government has already pledged to ban letting agent fees and Javid said it would be publishing the legislation for this soon.

David Cox, CEO of ARLA Propertymark, which represents letting agents, said: “After 20 years of our campaigning falling on deaf ears, we’re very pleased the government has taken the decision to regulate the private rented sector.

“This will be the single greatest step forward in a generation, in terms of consumer protection for private tenants, and will do more to clean up the image of the industry than the hundreds of smaller laws and pieces of legislation introduced over the last 20 years. However, regulation can take different forms and we need to see the detail of the proposal to be confident that it will be effective for tenants and landlords,” he added.

Not far enough

However, the promised light touch regulation does not go far enough for some housing experts. Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “While we welcome the fact that Sajid Javid has recognised the problem of instability for families who rent privately, we’re sorely disappointed that he is talking about encouraging 12 month tenancies when half of all tenancies are already a year or more.

“For the millions of families moved from pillar to post at the whim of a landlord, five-year contracts are the only way to ensure a stable future for those who need it most.”

She also criticised the renewed focus on Help to Buy, which the government has pledged a further £10bn towards.

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