Friday, July 20, 2007

Responsible Renting – have your say

I have already mentioned in previous posts that the Law Commission are undertaking a massive review of housing law and practice. This started with their Renting Homes project, now completed, and continued with their project on Proportionate Dispute Resolution. The final stage is the project on Encouraging Responsible Letting.

Both the dispute resolution and the responsible letting projects currently have consultation papers out, with closing dates respectively of 28 September and 12 October. The proportionate dispute resolution consultation is the second one in the project – this one is specifically on the role of tribunals. We did an online answerform for the previous consultation on Landlord-Law but sadly got very few responses, so we have decided not to do another one this time. If you want to respond you will be able to download an answerform on the Law Commission web-site.

However the consultation on responsible letting is very relevant to the majority of users of Landlord-Law so I have once again, with the agreement of the Law Commission, set up an online form (which they have approved). As with our other online forms, this gives sufficient information to allow the reader to answer the questions without having read the full report, although if you have time this is always better. The answerform can be found at

The reasoning behind the responsible renting project is that we have a lot of law aimed at protecting tenants and ensuring that properties are in good condition. However it does not seem to be working, as so many properties do not meet the legal standards (which themselves are fairly basic). The paper also covers unlawful eviction and harassment, but the main thrust of the questions relate to ‘how can we ensure that property which is made available for renting is in a proper condition?’

The paper puts forward a number of suggestions upon which it seeks feedback, ideally from practicing landlords. The two main suggestions are:

1. That landlords should be required to join a landlords association or accreditation scheme which would take on a regulatory role, and take steps to ensure that their members comply with the relevant law, and/or
2. That landlords be required to obtain a certificate certifying that the property is in a proper condition before being allowed to rent it.

It is not as simple as that of course, and the Law Commission recognise that there are problems with both suggestions. However they also point out that the nettle of enforcing standards against landlords really needs to be grasped, as there is a substantial cost in doing nothing. Poor quality housing leads to increased illness, underachieving children, and generally less socially cohesive and problematic communities.

The cost of these problems may indeed be greater than the cost of improving the condition of the housing. So there is an incentive for government to sink some money into housing for the greater good. Thankfully we now seem to have a prime minister who is taking the issue of housing seriously so we may see some action.

However if you are a landlord or are involved in the private rented sector, I would urge you to read the consultation paper (either in the original, or in my condensed version) and submit your views to the Law Commission. They are very anxious to hear from you. This is your chance to have your voice heard and to influence policy! Do not waste it!

PS See our poll on the right - closes 27/08/07

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