Opinion

NRLA boss Ben Beadle: 'We must not ignore landlords who are failing to do the right thing'

Andy Burnham is right to want to back responsible landlords and root out the rogues and criminals. However, it is vital that the rhetoric is backed up by policies to make this a reality

Proposals for a ‘good landlord’ scheme in Greater Manchester are to be welcomed as an opportunity to distinguish the vast majority of responsible landlords from the criminal and rogue minority who bring the sector into disrepute.

However, now the consultation process has begun, it will be vital that the proposals are backed up by policies to support and encourage responsible landlords to meet increasing demand for high quality homes.

Across the country the vast majority of landlords provide decent and safe housing and a good service to their tenants. That’s why the most recently available data from the English Housing Survey shows that 81% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, a higher proportion than among social renters.

Similarly, 79% of private renters are satisfied with the service their landlords provide, compared with 70% of social renters who said the same.

Despite this, we must not ignore the minority of landlords who are failing to do the right thing. Not only do they cause misery for their tenants, they damage the reputation of the majority of landlords who provide decent housing. That is why we need to find ways to make it easier for tenants to distinguish between responsible landlords and those who should be kicked out of the sector for good.

The proposals from the mayor of Greater Manchester are a step in the right direction. The commitment especially to ensuring those landlords meeting all their legal obligations are properly recognised should be welcomed.

Currently, plans in the consultation would require those landlords wanting to become full members of the Good Landlord Charter to exceed many legally required standards.

This is a laudable aspiration which we support, but practical support must be put in place to support those landlords with the work required to meet their obligations.

Take energy efficiency for example. At present the law states that, unless a registered exemption is made, all private rented properties should have an energy efficiency rating of at least an ‘E’. Under the Good Landlord Charter properties would need to have an energy rating of at least a ‘C’ which will require significant planning and investment. What is needed is a route map to help responsible landlords achieve this aim.

Around a third of all private rented homes were built prior to 1919, a higher proportion than in the owner occupied and social rented sectors. Homes of this age are among the oldest stock in the country and are therefore the hardest and most expensive properties to improve.

Just as with the social sector, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority needs to work with councils across the region to ensure financial support is available to improve the energy efficiency of private rented housing. This needs to be backed by reforms nationally to a tax system which fails to support or encourage energy efficiency improvements in rented homes.

As Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for the environment and energy in London rightly told a parliamentary committee in 2019, “incentives and tax allowances would really help” in this regard.

Similarly, we agree with the objective to improve the number of rented properties adapted to meet the needs of disabled tenants and those with other mobility needs. However, this needs to be matched by a high-profile joint campaign between the mayor, the NRLA, councils and tenant groups in the region to raise awareness of the Disabled Facilities Grant. Research for the NRLA has shown that, where landlords are aware of the grant, they are far more prepared to make adaptations to meet the needs of tenants with a disability.

More broadly, plans contained within the charter now out for consultation need to be fully aligned with reforms to the sector outlined in the Renters (Reform) Bill. Take for example the Property Portal and the new Housing Ombudsman. Following their introduction, there will be a large array of regulatory tools in play including HMO, selective and additional licensing schemes, the national Property Portal and redress scheme. The voluntary Good Landlord Charter in Greater Manchester will also be added to this list.

Crucially, efforts to tackle rogue and criminal landlords will continue to face difficulty for as long as renters have so little purchasing power as a result of the chronic imbalance between the supply of, and demand for, rented homes.

Andy Burnham is right to want to back responsible landlords and root out the rogues and criminals. However, it is vital that the rhetoric is backed up by policies to make this a reality. We stand ready to work with him to develop such plans.

Ben Beadle is chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association .

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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