The Private Rented Sector - Raising the Bar
Anyone working in the Private Rented Sector at the moment is probably feeling completely overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of documentation coming out of The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. The Government is ‘on a roll’ and determined to raise standards across the industry. Forget Location, Location, Location – it really is Regulation, Regulation, Regulation these days! That said, the general consensus amongst industry professionals is that this is all a move in the right direction. There has long been a call for the lettings industry to be regulated and when you consider that as property professionals we have to be familiar with over 700 pieces of legislation, it is staggering that until now, the industry has been completely unregulated. In the past few years letting agents have had to get to grips with:
- Minimum Energy Levels Regulations (MEES)
- Homeless Reduction Act 2017
- Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018
- General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) – 25 May 2018
- Deregulation Act 2015
- Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards – March 2019)
- The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
- Immigration Act 2014 & Right to Rent Checks
- The Tenant Fees Act June 2019
- Protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market – Call for Evidence
- Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector – Working Group Report
The rules cover everything from gas, fire and electrical safety requirements, Right to Rent checks, tenancy deposit protection, consent to let from mortgage providers, Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), tenancy agreements, and the law on access and notice periods to name but a few. Selling property seems perfectly simple in comparison!
One thing I will never understand is why, when property is for most people their most valuable asset, so many Landlords base their choice of Agent on price and not on quality of service. You wouldn’t choose the cheapest nursery for your child so why choose the cheapest agent?
And therein lies the problem. Sajid Javid’s opening comments in the Draft Tenant Fees Bill stated that the ban would “sharpen and increase letting agents’ incentives to compete for landlords’ business, resulting in a better and more transparent service for everyone”. I didn’t agree then, and I don’t agree now. The market is already very competitive and the unintended consequence of the fee ban are that agents are being forced to look for other ways to meet the shortfall. Higher levels of knowledge, skills and service come at a cost and this should be recognised.
Nobody would instruct a lawyer, architect, or accountant and not expect to incur a commensurate bill. Letting agents provide a valuable service in ensuring that landlords comply with their legal requirements and that properties are safe for tenants to rent. As a general rule, people fail to appreciate the level of knowledge, skills and expertise required of letting agents. On the back of all the recent changes to improve standards, as an industry we need to re-define our position as professionals and raise the bar to make a clearer case as to what is a fair and reasonable fee for our work. I would urge the Government to consider what it thinks is reasonable for a letting agent to charge because quite frankly, most letting agents could earn more as cleaners!
Owner, Piccolo Property Services