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Are Lettings Agents Caught in Conservative Crosshairs?

Thursday June 11, 2015

Like never before, housing has been in the crosshairs at the very top of Government.

It played a crucial role in pre-election debates, and the Queen’s Speech, which included Right to Buy legislation and regulation on lettings agents, proved that housing will be central to the Conservatives’ next five years in office.

It feels slightly odd that lettings agents are being painted as the bad guys, but let’s face it, we suffer from a few reputation issues as an industry. That’s putting it kindly!

I’ve never made any secret of the need to tighten regulations for lettings agents.

Heaton Property has been a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) for many years and we abide by their code of conduct, hold client money protection and ensure that our staff are qualified and have ongoing training.

Letting agencies now also have to be a member of an Ombudsman, so consumers have recourse to someone after something has gone wrong. But why not prevent issues from the outset by having well-trained agents versed in landlord and tenant legislation?

Why not ensure all agencies hold client money protection so, should they go bust or disappear overnight, people’s money doesn’t vanish too?

At the same time I also worry when I see legislation brought in that solely focuses on the rental sector. From October, law will require rented properties with a new tenancy to have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted. This is to be wholly welcomed, however I remain puzzled why the law isn’t extended to all properties across the country, both rented and owner occupied. Are we only concerned for the health of rental tenants? Surely children and older people in owner occupied homes deserve to be afforded the same protection.

We’ve seen recently with fallout from the tragic Thomas Cook case the crushing effects of faulty boilers going unchecked. It seems crazy to me that, even after headline-grabbing instances like this, that there is no requirement for owner-occupiers in the UK to be legally bound to an annual boiler check.

I also get frustrated by legislation that creates a two-tier system.

Council homes can’t have action taken against them by council environmental health officers like the private rented sector can…the council isn’t going to sue itself, is it? The result is that private housing standard is taking over and is now more popular than social housing. A massive 87% of private rental tenants are happy with their landlord and their property.

We know that Conservatives are pro-private rentals. So now let’s see if they can extend their policies to encourage sensible growth and stability in a very important part of the economy.


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