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Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Industry welcome to weak tenants’ charter that could see UK PRS landlords at odds with

Buy-To-Let Mortgage Lenders

The new tenants’ charter was announced by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CLG), Eric Pickles, last Wednesday, allowing tenants to ask for longer tenancies and better transparency of letting agents’ fees.

The new tenants’ charter will also aim to force all lettings and property managing agents controlling PRS rental properties to join a compulsory redress scheme.

The Tenants’ Charter, published for consultation, outlines what tenants should be looking out for at every stage when renting a property in the UK’s private rented sector, including lettings agents having to inform customers what all their fees are upfront, before they have committed to anything, including visiting a property.

However, the introduction of these terms under the banner of the tenants’ charter could threaten the business future of large numbers of landlords who would technically be in breach of the strict buy-to-let mortgage terms imposed by many mortgage lenders, which generally stipulate that tenancy agreements are to be for a period of no more than one year.

Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles

Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles

Mr Pickles stated that the Government intend to publish a code of practice setting standards for the management of property in the private rental sector (PRS) along with guidance setting out the role of public bodies in protecting tenants from illegal eviction.

Mr Pickles said: “This government is on the side of hardworking people and the last thing we want to do is hurt tenants and kill (property) investment by increasing costs and strangling the sector with red tape. But tenants deserve better value for money, and dodgy landlords should be under no illusion they can provide a shoddy service with impunity. These proposals will raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation, root out the cowboys and rogue operators in the sector, and give tenants the confidence to request longer fixed-term, family-friendly tenancies that meet their needs”

Mr Pickles also said that the Government will develop a model tenancy agreement which will clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and ensure families can benefit from longer tenancies, without changing the existing legal framework for the rental market. He said “Longer tenancies will give families greater certainty and security, especially for those with children at school, and reduce costs for both tenants and landlords who will not have to pay letting agents to arrange frequent contract renewals.”

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee said: “I am pleased that the Government has embraced many of the recommendations in our private rented sector report. The proposals for a tenants’ charter and model tenancy agreements reflect our calls for greater awareness of rights and responsibilities. Far too often the security needed by families is not being provided by the private rented sector. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has listened to what the Committee said about the need for more family friendly tenancies. It is also welcome that the Government is taking forward our proposal to allow rent and housing benefit to be clawed back when landlords have been convicted of letting out dangerous property. The Committee will be watching closely to ensure that they are translated into action. We will also press to ensure that the Government’s gathering of information on selective licensing leads to action to raise standards. Much remains to be done if renting is to become an attractive alternative to owner occupation. It is disappointing; therefore, that the Government does not see fit to crack down on cowboy letting agents and their rip off fees and charges. It is also regrettable that the Government has declined to give local authorities the powers and freedom they need to improve housing in their areas.”

Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current
Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Property professionals generally agree with the introduction of the new tenants’ charter but many think that the Government have sidestepped the opportunity to enforce much tighter regulation of landlords in the private rental sector and lettings and property managing agents in particular and many feel that the new measures fall short of what is really needed.

It will be interesting to see if the Government put pressure on the banks and mainstream mortgage lenders to abolish or ignore such limiting clauses, allowing them to deliver on the real aim of the tenants’ charter.

Caroline Kenny, an executive of the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) wants the Government to build on the experience and expertise of those industry bodies which already require higher standards of their members. Commenting “Responsible agents who choose to belong to professional bodies which require client money protection insurance, impartial redress and an adherence to a strict Code of Practice are forced to compete with those who show little regard to professional standards or the needs of their clients. UKLA believe that this package of proposals represents a missed opportunity for the Government to make mandatory the kind of comprehensive protection offered by the UK Association of Letting Agents and other industry regulatory bodies, which are called UKALA & NLAfor by those working in the property industry and needed by hardworking consumers who are unable to differentiate between good and bad letting agents.”

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “The NLA has long argued that private renting can be far more flexible than commonly perceived, and we need to tap into this potential to meet the changing needs and expectations of those who rent. We look forward to working with government to make a success of these proposals. However, we believe that the Government has missed an opportunity to require greater professionalism of letting agents. While the requirement to belong to an approved redress scheme is a step in the right direction, it does little to protect the financial interest of landlords and tenants working with unregulated agents.”

Residential Landlords Association

Join The Residential Landlords Association

Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) welcomed the Government action to improve tenants’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities saying: “Tenants take more trouble buying a second-hand car than renting a house” Ensuring that tenants and landlords each understand clearly their rights and obligations to one another ensures a balanced relationship and enables them to hold each other to account based on the large number of laws already in existence. It will also play a vital role in rooting out those willfully criminal landlords who reap misery on tenants. We look forward to working with Ministers on the Charter as well as on how to best get this information to tenants.”

RICSPeter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said “The long overdue announcement was definitely a step in the right direction. The lettings sector has for far too long been the Wild West of the property industry, with many tenants having absolutely nowhere to go should they wish to complain about shoddy service. The introduction of a code of practice specifically covering those managing rented property should certainly improve standards.”

Chief Executive of the Housing & Homelessness charity Shelter, Campbell Robb said “This announcement is recognition that current private renting arrangements are not fit for families with children, who need greater long-term stability. This is a welcome step in the right direction, and ministers now need to consider how to make longer tenancies a real choice for the families desperate for a more stable place to live.”

The announcement of the new Tenants’ Charter was good news for consumer champions, Which? Who have been campaigning since 2007 when they first called for an amendment to the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 requiring letting agents to join an approved complaints scheme, just as property sales agents are. The consumer groups investigations also discovered earlier this year that major letting agents are acting unlawfully by not being upfront about the fees charged to clients.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, looks set to be implemented in Spring 2014, giving all landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme. This will mean that 40% of agents who currently aren’t signed up to a redress scheme will have to become members

Which? Executive Director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Renting is now the only housing option for millions so we’re pleased to see the Government taking steps to address problems in the lettings market. Making charges clear upfront will enable people to shop around more easily, and longer tenancies could mark the end of unnecessary renewal fees. The new legislation giving landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme now needs to be brought in as soon as possible and there must be strong action taken against any agent in breach of the scheme.”

  • Do you think the proposals go far enough?

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