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Delivering a Better Private Rented Sector

Dr Tom Simcock, Senior Researcher for the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), comments

It has been nearly 30 years since the Housing Act 1988 deregulated rents in the UK and spurred growth in the sector. The private rented sector has grown significantly in size over this period, doubling between 2001/02 and 2011/02, and now provides a home for 4.7 million households (MHCLG, 2018). The sector is rapidly becoming more diverse, with an increasing number of families, older renters, and the most vulnerable calling the sector home.  This rapid growth, along with the broader economic conditions including the decline of home-ownership, stagnant wages, and the decline in access to mortgages is generating tension both politically and socially.

With 20% of all households now in the private rented sector, this is generating greater political scrutiny and public debate. These debates include issues around standards, security of tenure, rents, and supply. The RLA set up PEARL to develop a deeper understanding of these issues and enable future policy making for the Private Rental Sector (PRS) to be based on evidence. But, we also aim to use our research findings to influence positive changes and create a private rented sector that works for both tenants and landlords. We do realise that what may have worked 30 years ago, might not work for the sector of today or the sector of the future.

There are a number of policy areas that are currently under greater scrutiny, and these are security of tenure, standards and efforts to increase the supply of homes. Over the past few years we have undertaken research into these different areas, and our findings show that there are things that could be changed to deliver a better private rented sector for all.

Security of tenure
Security of tenure can refer to many aspects of private renting, including how landlords can regain possession of their property and also the lengths of tenancy offered. The Government is currently consulting on the barriers to longer-term tenancies with a proposed 3-year tenancy model for all tenancies. However, is this option really what is needed for the sector and could this put
off landlords from continued investment in the sector?

There are tenant groups within the private rented sector that might not want to be tied to a three-year tenancy agreement, such as young professionals, students or those moving for work temporarily. However, we do have to accept that the growing number of families and older renters would benefit from a longer fixed tenancy agreement if they desired one.

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