According to Shelter, the proportion of homes rented privately in the United Kingdom has rocketed by nearly 70% since 2001, with the private rented sector now home to 3.8 million households in England alone. There is no doubt that the private sector is playing an increasingly important role in meeting housing needs. But although being a private landlord may seem to be a good way to make money, many landlords (and letting agents) are unaware of the ever-increasing responsibilities and potential liabilities placed on private landlords. Parliament appears intent on addressing the lack of regulation of the private rented sector and there have been a number of recent developments which all private landlords should be aware of:
Redress schemes are to be established enabling private sector tenants in England to raise complaints of malpractice by managing and letting agents. A new statutory order sets out the process for the ministerial approval of such schemes. On 6 January 2014 the UK Government issued the criteria by which such applications will be assessed. The 3,000 lettings and property management agents, around 40% of the industry, who do not currently belong to a redress scheme will now be required to join one by October 2014.
On 30 December 2013 the UK Government allocated a further £4million to work on tackling rogue private landlords, to be shared among 23 councils in England. The largest allocation (£239,000) was to Blackpool BC.
On 18 December 2013 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights published a paper expressing its concerns about the proposed controls on lettings to migrants set out in the Immigration Bill.
Also on 18 December 2013 there was a Parliamentary Debate on electrical safety in the private rented sector. During this debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Stephen Williams, said that the Government would look at whether a local authority should be able to impose conditions requiring regular checks of electrical installations in private rented property.
In addition to the above, the significant number of successful prosecutions of private landlords (and their agents) shows that it would be prudent for anyone involved in this sector to ensure they have access to expert legal advice.