GOVERNMENT FAILS TO ACT ON 'COWBOY' LETTING AGENTS

Earlier this year, the CLG Select Committee carried out an investigation into the private rented sector (PRS), and subsequently published a report on its findings.

Government has now responded to the Committee's report and recommendations.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee has commented on the Government's response as follows:

"I am pleased that the Government has embraced many of the recommendations in our private rented sector report.  The proposals for a tenants' charter and model tenancy agreements reflect our calls for greater awareness of rights and responsibilities.

"Far too often the security needed by families is not being provided by the private rented sector.  I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has listened to what the Committee said about the need for more family friendly tenancies.  It is also welcome that the Government is taking forward our proposal to allow rent and housing benefit to be clawed back when landlords have been convicted of letting out dangerous property.

"Whilst these warm words are welcome, the Committee will be watching closely to ensure that they are translated into action.  We will also press to ensure that the Government's gathering of information on selective licensing leads to action to raise standards.

"Much remains to be done if renting is to become an attractive alternative to owner occupation.  It is disappointing, therefore, that the Government does not see fit to crack down on cowboy letting agents and their rip off fees and charges.  It is also regrettable that the Government has declined to give local authorities the powers and freedom they need to improve housing in their areas."

Three of the Committee's recommendations concerned HMOs, i.e.

 

  • 'We recommend that the Government conduct a preview of the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation. This review should consider, amongst other things, evidence of the effectiveness of mandatory licensing, how well it is enforced, and whether the definition of a prescribed HMO should be modified.
  • Where there are community concerns about high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation, councils should have the ability to control the spread of HMOs. Such issues should be a matter for local determination. We therefore consider it appropriate that councils continue to have the option to use Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights allowing change of use to HMO.
  • Universities have a responsibility to ensure that student housing does not have a detrimental impact upon local communities. They should be working with local authorities and student groups to ensure that there is sufficient housing in appropriate areas and that students act as responsible householders and members of
    the community.'

However, the Committee did not support national licensing of landlords, despite strong arguments in favour of this, though they did propose local licensing.

Amongst other recommendations, the Committee also called on Government:

  • To end the vicious circle where, in some areas, over-inflated levels of housing benefit drive up rents, in turn increasing the housing benefit bill still further.
  • To promote closer working between HMRC and local authorities, to tackle evasion of capital gains and income tax

The Committee's inquiry and report can be found by going to:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/news/private-rented-sector-publication-note/

Also, go to:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-private-rented-sector-government-response-to-the-communities-and-local-government-select-committee-report

for the full Government response.

The NAG's submission to the Select Committee can be found at: 16 January 2013: Memorandum from the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs to the Communities & Local Government Select Committee Inquiry on the Private Rented Sector