British Property Federation: Government must invest to make renters’ reform work for everyone
The Queen’s Speech 2021 confirmed the Government’s intention to progress a Renters’ Reform Bill, with a White Paper expected to be published in the coming months.
The British Property Federation (BPF) today publishes its detailed position in response – principally to urge the Government to ensure that tenure reform works for residents and investors, and does not inadvertently harm new investment into the UK’s Private Rented Sector (PRS) and the delivery of much-needed high-quality homes for renters across the country.
The BPF is supportive of reform to tenures in the PRS and views this moment as an opportunity to create a better system for investors and residents alike.
Reform could potentially be a win-win, enhancing renters’ rights, but also ensuring residents feel at home and want to stay in their home for longer, which is what investors want.
However, if investment is to be protected it must be delivered hand-in-hand with government investment into the Courts – to ensure property owners and managers can deal quickly with a tenant who is proving to be disruptive, displaying anti-social behaviour and upsetting neighbours.
Significant modernisation and digitalisation of our Courts is needed – and that will require investment now in the Comprehensive Spending Review if the Government’s intention is to deliver reform ahead of the next general election.
The new system should enable a better experience for residents, more efficient management for investors, and encourage continued investment to build much-needed high-quality rented housing supply.
Other key recommendations:
- Retain fixed-term tenancies
Fixed-term tenancies are an essential part of the student lettings market and longer fixed-term tenancies work well in build-to-rent, providing security for residents and the ability for investors to upgrade and refresh homes.
- Streamline and improve the grounds for possession
This was an essential part of reforms in Scotland and is something the UK Government is working on. In the absence of ‘no fault’ grounds, property owners will need other means to be able to intervene – in for example cases of antisocial behaviour to protect other tenants or convictions for a serious offence.
- Recalibrate the relationship between investors and local authorities
Investors often rely on local authorities to help resolve anti-social behaviour. In a reformed system, the Government must set out roles and responsibilities expected of both parties.
- Ensure alignment of other government policy ambitions
The Government has policy ambitions such as improving minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) – the Government must ensure that investors are enabled to achieve these policy ambitions, with access to properties for refurbishment.
- Continue to rule out Rent Controls
Historical and international examples of rent controls, such as in Berlin, have proven to be ineffective interventions with detrimental impacts on housing supply.
- Ensure that any registration scheme is enforceable
The BPF has been a long-term supporter of a landlord register. In such a complex market it could deliver positive benefits, improving communication to landlords and assisting with local authorities’ work to protect consumers. Registration, however, must be reinforced through both landlords and occupiers using the landlord’s registration number.
Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy, British Property Federation comments:
“We look forward to engaging positively in the Government’s renters’ reform agenda. It is welcome that Government recognises that reform must work for both residents and property owners, otherwise it could jeopardise much-needed investment in new high-quality homes for renters across the UK.
“The key aspect of reform for property owners will be the Courts, which are not fit to support the Government’s ambitions at present. In an age when we can all track our meals and parcels digitally, it is unacceptable that court users rely on a system that in large part still operates with paper and can often involve happenchance as to whether a court official will be on the other end of a telephone. It will be hugely disappointing if the Government seeks to deliver reform without the requisite investment to make it work properly.”