Yesterday I was asked a surprisingly difficult question. I was asked what I thought of charities and local authorities setting up "ethical" letting agencies. The fact is I haven't given huge amounts of thought to it - though our office is maintaining a watching brief on their activities and seeing what can be learnt.
So I had to retreat to an instinctive (and unpopular) no. It seems inconceivably that the state or non-profit sector could or should compete in this space cost effectively. We're glad they do so as they are a rare respite for people who are routinely exploited, but on being scrutinised on the issue, I just couldn't see how they could be scaled to have a beneficial impact for millions of people.
I have had a think now, and while I did so fully prepared to explain why I had been wrong and have changed my mind, I haven't. I really don't think such projects are a solution to the letting agency problem. But as a representative of a tenant advocacy group, this does bear some explaining.Read more
We've had a number of requests to publish the list of how MPs voted in the failed bid to outlaw letting agent fees to tenants. You can see the full list here.
This campaign isn't dead though. We'll be working with enlightened Peers to bring this back in the Lords. Unlike MPs, Lords don't get their letting agent fees paid on expenses so we're expecting more support.
The Government yesterday backed letting agents over renters by refusing to ban fees to tenants. In voting on the Consumer Rights Bill, Conservative and LibDem whips defeated the ban 281 to 228. The Government instead promised new fines for agents who don’t publish their fee tariff.Read more
Supply and demand.
Oh you wanted more than that? Ok.
There is short supply and high demand for homes to rent. The balance between these forms a price that a tenant is willing to pay a landlord. So far not controversial.
However, that is not how the relationship between tenant and agent is characterised. At the time of signing a contract, the agent is the gatekeeper to a single home with any number of keen tenants. The agent is not an actor in the market for homes to rent but a creator of micro-monopolies for single homes.Read more
Compulsory registration of landlords and letting agents, mandatory safety checks; what we can take from the Welsh Housing Bill.
The motion to agree the general principles of the Welsh House Bill was unanimously carried in the Welsh National Assembly this week. The Housing Bill aims to improve the supply, quality and standards of housing in Wales and takes various aspects of housing into account, ranging from tackling homelessness to legislating within the private rented sector. In a positive move for renters, the Housing Bill specifically sets out legislation for compulsory registration and licensing of all landlords and agents. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the bill include a legal requirement for landlords to undertake regular safety inspections, such as electrical inspections, in all private rented housing, so the bill may yet improve.Read more