Communication and relationships key to improving private rented sector, says industry
Nationwide Building Society was one of the industry representatives attending the roundtable to address some of the underlying issues impacting tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.
Tenant and landlord needs were put front and centre of an event held by major players in the rental and housing sector, with the main outcome being that organisations must work more closely together in order to effect meaningful change.
The industry roundtable was attended by representatives from across the private rented sector including Nationwide Building Society, Fair Housing Futures, Countrywide, ARLA PropertyMark, Connells Group, NLA, RLA, Generation Rent, and the Nationwide Foundation.
The group met to discuss some of the underlying issues impacting the private rented sector, and how the landlord and tenant relationship could be improved to benefit everyone involved in the rental process. Amid a range of contrasting views, there was there was consensus on the importance of establishing trust between landlords and their tenants.
The group felt tenants should be able to report issues without fear of eviction, and that landlords are confident their properties are being looked after. All agreed that the following steps could help achieve this:
- Make tenancy documents easy to understand: Contracts should be easily readable, translatable and clearly and accessibly highlight the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
- Role of lettings agents: More should be done to ensure that lettings agents understand and facilitate the necessary regulation at play in the rental process. It was agreed that full mandatory government regulation of lettings agents is the quickest and most effective method to eliminate unprofessional, unqualified and unethical agents from the property sector.
- Improved, simplified sources of information: There should be a single point of contact for landlords and tenants where they can seek qualified, straightforward advice regarding their respective rights and responsibilities. Giving local authorities the resources to employ more dedicated Tenancy Support Officers was discussed as was the perceived benefits of a single information portal, replacing the current system where information for both parties is scattered across different Government and sector websites, where there is no standard benchmark of quality.
- A review of insurance products on offer in the sector: There is potentially scope for more use of insurance in the sector, particularly landlords’ insurance as a route to mitigating risk and building trust. Insurance products available to landlords should also be reviewed to ensure they do not contain restrictions such as “no DSS clauses”, and to ensure that they do not inadvertently trigger unnecessary evictions.
A number of issues were discussed which were not uniformly supported but were discussed in a rounded way. These included:
- A change in language. The current language used to discuss the private rental sector is outdated and has the potential to encourage stigma. Some took the view that use of new terms like ‘home provider’ and ‘resident’ could encourage respectful relationship-building between both parties.
- More effective regulation: Some attendees felt strongly that respect and trust could not be developed between landlord and tenant without a robust regulatory framework offering tenants protection from unfair eviction, and potentially recriminatory rent increases.
- Scrapping Section 21: Some present contested that Section 21 should not be scrapped, and that doing so would not necessarily resolve any of the outstanding issues within the sector, including property standards and tenancy length issues. However, others present argued in favour of scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions in order give tenants increased security in their homes. Nationwide Building Society, Crisis, and Generation Rent all support scrapping Section 21, with Nationwide requested it is abandoned in tandem with the creation of a specialised housing court.
Paul Wootton, Nationwide Building Society’s Director of Home Propositions, said: “It was great to convene such a positive and collaborative discussion with people representing different parts of the sector. I feel very optimistic about how we can take this conversation forward, and work to ensure that the private rented sector works for everyone. Nationwide members are both renters and landlords, and we’re keen to ensure that both parties get a fair deal from the sector.”
All participants will continue to work together around areas of consensus and hope to work constructively on these issues with the Government, local authorities, and other organisations in the private rented sector.