Publication of the Select Committee report

Dean Velani, the NLA's Parliamentary Officer, comments on the publication of the Select Committee report.
Dean Velani, the NLA’s Parliamentary Officer, comments on the publication of the Select Committee report.

It took nine months to produce and it was delivered on the 18th July 2013. The creators were subjected to constant advice and lecturing and the participants opined like old wives carefully regaling their tales.

…and there it was, the birth of the Select Committee’s report into the private rented sector.

As all Parliamentarians know, the gestation period for any report can often run into lengths that would make a large mammal wince.

One month has elapsed since its release and now reflections can be made:

  • The report, initially, set out to seek solutions to raising standards and helping to mature the PRS market to cater for families and those wanting stability. It is clear from the publication, press releases and subsequent media fall out that the focus has been on letting agents. The Committee views the unregulated practices of letting agents as a problem affecting both tenants and landlords. The Committee regards regulating letting agents as an accessible way to reform the PRS market for the better. This conclusion is supported by ample evidence given from all sides of the industry of bad practice from letting agents.
  • Clarity is a theme that ran through the report. The Committee wants letting agents to publish fees in a transparent manner so the landlord and tenant are aware of what they have to pay to secure the property. The Committee called for the legislation covering the private-rented sector to be consolidated and made easier to understand. The report also recommends that the Government work with groups representing tenants, landlords and agents to bring forward a standard, plain language tenancy agreement on which all agreements should be based.  Included within this standard agreement should be an easy-to-read fact sheet, setting out the key rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant.
  • The Committee has called for a housing Consolidation bill which would streamline several pieces of legislation into a single act. This ambitious plan would be difficult to implement, especially within this Parliament. The Government has shown itself to be keen on reducing regulation and equally keen not to legislate on the PRS. The dichotomy between the two positions could result in guidance issued surrounding aspects of current legislation. This would allow tinkering without wholesale change to be completed before the end of the Parliament.

Of course the Government has few obligations to react to the Committee’s recommendations beyond issuing a formal response. The Department for Communities and Local Government has discussed this with the NLA and other bodies and looks likely to welcome a number of the points raised – but certainly not all.

With cross-party support, several workable solutions and the support of the majority within the Industry, the Government would find it hard to justify not implementing parts of the Committee’s recommendations.

It will be interesting to see which parts find favour and which join countless other reviews on the political scrapheap.

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