uke Gidney is a director at the award winning Let-Leeds estate agent. Here, he gives his verdict on plans to reform the private rented sector and says they may be unnecessary...
He latest research shows that 84 per cent of tenants in the private rented sector are happy with their buy-to-let property and the treatment they receive from their landlords or letting agents.
This figure, in the English Housing Survey Households Report (EHSHR), does, I believe, indicate a growing professionalism and ability to self regulate within the private rented sector.
There have been calls for more regulation in recent years but I think that we have now reached a point where there are adequate measures in place to protect all parties.
Letting agents now have to be more open about the fees they charge.
They also have to be part of an ombudsman scheme that can see them struck off if there are too many complaints about them.
In addition, social media gives any disgruntled landlords or tenants an instant way of publicising grievances they may have with letting agents.
As a result, the emphasis is now firmly on customer care.
In the past, Shelter and the Labour Party have called for tougher measures on letting agents but I think we no longer need further action.
That may surprise some people but that is the situation as I see it.
People may also be surprised by the EHSHR’s finding that private sector rents have not risen in real terms over the past five years – and have risen at a slower rate than those in the social housing sector.
This can be attributed to a number of factors.
Apart from London, house prices are not rising at an incredible rate.
Added to this, interest rates have remained low, so landlords do not need to seek extra rental income to cover their buy-to-let mortgage payments.
This has led to the rental sector now having more stability than I can ever remember.
Such stability can also be attributed to another factor that helps explain the fairly slow increases in private rents – landlords’ desire for stability.
Landlords are often portrayed as money-obsessed, heartless individuals but that is certainly not the case at the moment.
As I outlined earlier, the emphasis is now on treating tenants as well as possible.
It may surprise many people to learn that, generally speaking, landlords prefer to keep a good tenant on a modest rent rather than take a chance on an unknown tenant who pays a higher rent.
Earlier this year, a survey quizzed 3,428 landlords from all over Great Britain about such a scenario.
Of those asked, 68 per cent said they would stay with the tenant they have in place rather than risk taking on a new tenant to gain a higher rent. Even the prospect of a 20 per cent rent increase would only tempt 10 per cent of those landlords surveyed.
Stability may not be everybody’s idea of fun. But it seems good for the lettings industry, tenants and landlords right now.
Luke Gidney is Director of Let-Leeds. www.let-leeds.com Let-Leeds, which is based in Leeds and York, has been a winner for the past three consecutive years in The Times and The Sunday Times Lettings Agency of the Year Awards. It was also a Gold Award winner in the 2013 ESTAS.