The National Landlords Association, (NLA), has warned local councils that their lack of understanding of the realities of the private rented sector (PRS) is hampering their efforts to improve standards of property management and tackle criminal activity.
Speaking to a seminar of local government housing professionals at the New Local Government Network considering how local authorities can influence the PRS, chief executive officer Richard Lambert challenged local authorities over the quality of the research that underpinned their policies.
He said that too often council policy documents betrayed an ignorance of who lived in the PRS, and the likely response of landlords and agents to their policy proposals.
Lambert said councils appeared to have a distorted view of the sector, based around the problems they encountered as a regulator, which impeded their ability to recognise and understand the wider sector of legitimate, law-abiding landlords who provide well maintained properties and run successful businesses. This lack of understanding inevitably led to a lack of effective and joined-up polices.
There are mixed feelings across the UK about how best local councils should tackle the issues of poor or criminal property management. Some authorities have already imposed landlord licensing schemes, while others have opted for alternative strategies, such as landlord accreditation. He cited examples, including that of Newham Council, where the entire responsible landlord community in the borough has been alienated by pressing ahead with the scheme’s implementation.
Mr Lambert, said: “In 2013, private individuals put an estimated £20bn into providing much-needed housing in the UK, so it’s frightening that councils simply don’t seem to understand the approach and motivations of most landlords or how successful private lettings businesses work.
“There is an expectation, especially from the political level, that licensing is some kind of panacea, which will resolve everything and introduce new standards and requirements, when in fact they already exist, but are just not effectively enforced.
“Time and again, we find that where licensing proposals are being considered – and in some cases where they are already in place – no thought or budget has been given to ensure that the required enforcement action, which is inevitably needed, can take place.
“The responsible landlord community should be the strongest advocate for the drive for higher standards and tougher action against rogue operators and criminals. But councils won’t be able to build that alliance if landlords have no confidence in their council’s understanding or awareness of what’s really happening in the rented sector”.