The private rented sector needs reorganisation. As private renting has grown, there are now a significant number of non-professional landlords with small portfolios, letting out their properties alongside another job. Although voluntary accreditation schemes exist, the uptake remains small and so there is no way for tenants to guarantee that their landlord is a good one. The rise of the PRS has also seen an increase in letting agents across the country, with virtually no regulation of the sector and huge fees paid by tenants, out of proportion to the services offered.
A national register of landlords and the mandatory licensing of letting agents would mean that only professional and scrupulous people could operate in the sector and they would be accountable to tenants. It would also allow government to communicate effectively with the sector and inform policy more accurately. Furthermore, local authorities would then be able to target their resources on criminal landlords, with minimal burden on the better landlords. While several local authorities have introduced landlord licensing in their areas, the last government made it harder to do so.
The previous government did make it mandatory for letting agents to be part of a redress scheme. We are monitoring the effectiveness of these schemes in reducing poor practice and rip-offs in the sector. The government has also forced landlords and agents to carry out checks on the immigration status of would-be tenants. This is a terrible policy that will raise costs and risks breeding discrimination against anyone who doesn't sound or appear British.
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