22 Jul 2020

A new report, Consumer rights in the private rented sectohas been published by the Smith Institute with the Wates Family Enterprise Trust on ‘Consumer rights in the private rented sector’. 

Authored by former Chief Ombudsman, Lewis Shand Smith, with a foreword by John Healey MP, the report shows that consumer protection for England’s 4.5m private renters is sub-standard and compares poorly with other sectors, such as energy, telecoms and financial services.

The report concludes that private tenants need greater protection and more power as consumers in the rental market.

Tenants should be able to identify bad landlords who flout the rules, and have access to homes that they can be confident will be safe, secure and affordable.

Private landlords meanwhile must have greater clarity about their obligations.

The report calls for a new Private Rented Sector Regulator oversee compliance with standards, support local authorities in their enforcement role, and ensure both tenants’ and landlords’ voices are heard.

It also recommends an open-ended Private Residential Tenancy, including removing no-fault evictions and increasing notice periods for longer term tenants.

It proposes reform of the redress and dispute resolution by introducing mandatory membership of the Housing Ombudsman Service for private rented sector landlords and lettings agents; an independent Private Renters Panel to represent interests of renters and engage with Government and the new Regulator on policy development; and an obligation on all landlords to provide better information for tenants

John Healey MP, former shadow housing minister, commented that:

“Renting must change after Covid. Home was meant to be our place of safety during lockdown but millions of renters continue to live in insecure and sub-standard housing.

“We have more consumer rights when we rent a car, buy a fridge-freezer or take out a loan that we do as private renters”.

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