Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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HEALEY BACKS PRIVATE TENANTS WITH EXTRA HELP AND PROTECTION

HEALEY BACKS PRIVATE TENANTS WITH EXTRA HELP AND PROTECTION

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 03 February 2010

Housing Minister John Healey today announced new practical help and protection for tenants in privately rented homes. The moves will help tenants find safer and better homes for rent and offer extra support if they face problems with their landlords or accommodation.

A new housing hotline will open for business by the summer to offer private tenants free practical advice when problems occur and a new ‘tripadvisor’ style feedback website could allow tenants to post views on their accommodation and landlord.

Plans laid in parliament today to make written agreements a legal requirement for all tenancies will mean tenants are clear about their rights from the outset and information on the track record of prospective landlords in how they keep their properties up to scratch or how quickly they fix any faults will be available through a new National Landlords Register.

Tenancy rights will be extended to more people living in shared homes on short term lets – giving extra protection to around 150,000 more people including many students and seasonal workers.

Privately rented homes provide a flexible housing option to three million households in England. But while the vast majority – three quarters – of tenants say they are satisfied with their rented home many tenants can face difficulties.

Today’s package of measures outlined in The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps, following on from the Rugg Review published in 2008, will ensure tenants have the information and help they need to make informed decisions about the homes they rent, legal protection and certainty about their rights and extra support to help them deal with any disputes.

Mr Healey confirmed the Government’s intention to bring in legislation to introduce the National Landlords Register and a tougher regulatory regime for managing letting agents to drive out the rogue elements that can sometimes tarnish the image of the sector and those who play by the rules.

The Minister also pledged to explore more ways of lending practical support to organisations who represent the interests of private sector tenants in the same way as for public housing.

The package includes:

• A new housing hotline offering free help and advice for private tenants
• a ‘tripadvisor’ style word-of-mouth website comparing landlords
• A requirement for written tenancy agreements in all tenancies that will strengthen the hand of tenants should they face a dispute
• Boosting the number of tenants protected under the most commonly used tenancy agreement
• A National Register for Landlords to help tenants make basic checks on their prospective landlords
• Better regulation of letting and managing agents, which will help tackle the rogue agents who can drag the reputation of the Private Rented Sector down.

Housing Minister John Healey said:

“Over three million families live in private rented housing and while the majority of tenants say they’re happy with their homes and landlords many do face problems with their landlord and should have better help and protection on hand.

“Every tenant should be confident in their decision to rent as well as be clear what to expect before they sign on the dotted line. That’s why I’m making information about the track record of landlords available to everyone and written tenancy agreements will mean all tenants are clear about their rights from the outset. Extending protections to more shared homes an estimated 150,000 more people on short term lets will also have tenancy rights for the first time. But if things do go wrong a new housing hotline will mean tenants have somewhere to turn for help and advice.

” Creating Local Letting Agencies, where councils and good landlords work together to help local people find better-quality homes in the private rented sector will help to side-line the cowboys across the country.”

The Minister also wants to see the standards of the best spread more widely, and he’s backing work underway with councils across England to encourage best practice in taking a more business-friendly approach to working with the best landlords and agents in their area.

Notes to Editors

1. Today’s package of measures, The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps, can be found at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/prsconsultresponse

2. Government will now work closely with landlord and tenant groups to finalise a detailed package for legislation.

3. Today’s measures include:

• Funding for a new housing hotline offering free help and advice for private tenants should things go wrong.

• An online word-of-mouth directory of landlords similar to tripadvisor or mumsnet. Consumer Focus is currently undertaking work to establish better ways for tenants to provide and access information about landlords’ track records.

• A requirement for written tenancy agreements that will strengthen the hand of tenants should they face a dispute and ensure all tenants and landlords are clear of their rights and responsibilities.

• Boosting the number of tenants protected under the most commonly used tenancy agreement. An increase of the short-term rental threshold to £100,000 a year will mean that many shared households, most often those of students or seasonal workers, will have their rights strengthened and protected by legislation should they face a dispute.

• A National Register for Landlords to help tenants make basic checks on their prospective landlords. Councils will be able to identify local landlords more easily, making enforcement of letting rules easier, and registered landlords will gain access to the latest advice and information on what their role entails and how best to fulfil their responsibilities

• Better regulation of letting and managing agents, which will help tackle the rogue agents who can drag the reputation of the Private Rented Sector down. Full legislation will drive out the worst practices such as wrongful eviction, raise standards and provide greater protection for both tenants and landlords in cases of dispute.

• Work is also currently underway with councils across England to encourage best practice in taking a more business-friendly approach to working with the best landlords and agents in their area. Creating Local Letting Agencies, where councils and good landlords work together to help local people find better-quality homes in the private rented sector will help to effectively side-line the cowboys across the country.

Contacts:

Communities and Local Government Press Office
Phone: 0303 44 41137
press.office@communities.gsi.gov.uk