Within weeks the focus of the industry will be on the White Paper to be issued on rental reform before Christmas.
Let’s temper our expectations from the outset. I’ve written before that the government knows landlords are unlikely to vote anything other than Tory, so has little to gain from using the White Paper to curry support from that direction. However, it will do all it can to win the votes of Britain’s renters, to make inroads into another Labour heartland, so expect the recommendations to be more Generation Rent than NRLA.
But whatever the recommendations, the entire industry is surely keen to see an improved policing and enforcement service on miscreants - whether they are tenants running up arrears or being anti-social, or landlords and agents presiding over homes in poor condition.
At the moment the enforcement system is undermined by, variously, combinations of red tape and insufficient funding and poor management. And it’s not just “them” at fault - sometimes our industry is too slow to act and enforce, too.
Let me give some examples from just this week’s news stories carried on the Today titles.
The Property Ombudsman has expelled a flurry of letting agents, mostly for their failure to honour compensation awards made by TPO to landlords; in most cases, the agencies had disappeared into the ether, and the expulsions made no practical difference whatsoever.
I’m not underestimating the need for due process, nor forgetting the difficulties everyone has had during this time of Covid, but expelling agencies that no longer exist doesn’t really cut the mustard in terms of convincing the public or the industry about enforcement.
Matthew Payne, from Aficionado Property Consultants, made a perfectly valid comment below our story saying: “Expelling businesses that have gone bust, whilst a useful reminder to the rest of the industry to behave, is slamming the gate shut a little too late. These sanctions should be applied far quicker to limit the impact of poor practice on the general public and to send a far more powerful message to other agents.”
Likewise look at the delays in the hearing of eviction cases.
While pre-pandemic notice periods have now been restored in the private rental sector, delays in the court system are still dire. Landlord Action says out of some 400 review hearings up to late September, only one - just ONE - led to a possession order immediately afterwards, meaning in the other cases landlords and agents are still losing money.
Such delays do neither the landlord nor the increasingly indebted tenant any good - so surely there is justification for streamlining the system?
*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn