UK Government to evaluate impact of legislative changes on the PRS

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s report on the Regulation of Private Renting, published today, 13 April 2022, claims that better data is needed to understand issues within the private rented sector (PRS) in England and to evaluate the impact of legislative changes on landlords, tenants, the housing market as a whole and the effectiveness of regulation.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has made piecemeal legislative changes in recent years thereby making the regulatory system even more complex and difficult to navigate for tenants, landlords and local authorities. The UK Government does intend to address problems within the PRS with the Renters’ Reform White Paper, which is due to be published later in 2022. 

However, the report says that DHLUC will need better data to understand issues within the sector in order to evaluate the impact of legislative changes on landlords, tenants, the housing market as a whole and the effectiveness of regulation. The Department should also work across government, including formally where appropriate with other departments, to understand how the reforms may affect or be affected by other policy areas such as benefits and tax.

Evidence

The PRS in England has doubled in size in the last 20 years and now houses 11 million people. The report says that the sector is failing to provide safe and secure homes for renters, with 13 per cent (589,000) of privately rented properties currently posing a serious threat to the health and safety of renters, costing the NHS an estimated £340 million each year.

The National Audit Office (NAO) also highlighted in a report in December 2021 that DLUHC needs to gather further information about the PRS to provide better regulation and enforcement. The NAO report claims that DLUHC will struggle to measure the impact of its interventions without this data but has not yet developed a plan to improve the information it has available.

10 Dec 2021
National Audit Office (NAO): DLUCH regulation plans lack data

The NAO report, released 10 December, highlights the need for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to gain further information about the private rented sector (PRS) to provide better regulation and enforcement.

Local Authorities

Enforcement by local authorities is also under capacity and is not providing appropriate and consistent protection for tenants according to the Public Accounts Committee. The report outlines that DLUHC does not know what base level of resource local authorities need to ensure landlords comply with legal minimum standards, and it is not proactive enough in supporting them to regulate effectively.

The future of renting

The Committee has made several recommendations, including:

  • Improve renters’ ability to exercise their rights by learning from complaints and redress mechanisms used in other consumer markets.
  • Conduct a realistic assessment of the resources needed for local authorities to regulate effectively, with consideration given to the size, types and quality of private rented properties and the demographics of renters. The Committee has asked DHLUC to write to them within six months with an update on the outcome of this assessment.
  • Take a more proactive approach to support local regulators and share good practice. To do so, it should learn from other consumer protection systems that provide central intelligence and support to local regulators.    
  • Develop a coherent data strategy to identify and collect the data it needs to understand the problems renters are facing and evaluate the impact of legislative changes.

Reforming the PRS

13 Dec 2021
The Future of Renting

The Future of Renting features our recommendations to the UK Government and its plans to reform the private rented sector in England. We want to help shape and influence the UK Government’s Renters’ Reforms White Paper which is due to be released in 2022.

 The Public Accounts Committee’s report reiterates our long-held view that ‘piecemeal’ legislative changes have been introduced which ‘has made the regulatory system even more overly complex and difficult to navigate’. Without a long-term vision for the sector, it seems that more fragmented policies are on their way with the startling statement that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is making decisions, such as on the issue of retaliatory evictions, without having all the evidence and data it needs to do so.
 
ONS figures released this week show investment in repairs and maintenance to private accommodation has seen all-time highs over the past 18 months. This is in stark contrast to the social rented sector that has seen investment in repairs and maintenance at the lowest levels since records began over the last two years.
 
There are at least six government departments that interact with the private rented sector and if the UK Government are serious about reforms, then all relevant Ministers, officials and stakeholders including local authorities must be at the same table, working together and setting out a roadmap for reform that cuts across all the different policy areas.
 
Timothy Douglas Head of Policy and Campaigns | Propertymark