Lettings industry facing more regulation, Minister tells conference

The residential lettings sector in the UK is facing more reform with a new regulatory framework currently being drawn up by a property working party, it has been confirmed.

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler told the Association of Residential Letting Agents conference that the compulsory client money protection rules that have just come into force and the lettings fee ban due in June will be followed by more change.

These two measures, she said, herald the introduction of a new regulatory framework currently being devised by the Regulation of Property Agents working party, currently sitting under the leadership of Lord Best.

The group is expected to report back to Wheeler shortly with recommendations which she indicated will lead to reform, including ‘a powerful industry regulator’. She told delegates that further industry wide regulation is need to improve fairness.

Wheeler said there is still some way to go in terms of raising standards in the private rented sector and this is why more change will be addressed.

She also told the conference that a final report on the review of selective licensing schemes, first pledged in 2015 and eventually launched last October, will be published soon.

Wheeler hinted that one forthcoming change could relate to longer tenancies. She revealed that the Government’s recent call for evidence on the subject attracted over 8,700 responses and officials are currently working on a response. She confirmed that landlords’ concerns about regaining possession of property will be taken into account.

She also said she is pleased with the work that has been done so far to raise standards in the industry, explaining that further change is being brought in with the aim of the public having confidence in the sector, making everything fair.

Delegates told the conference that there is a lot of support for a review of the Tenant Fees Act and a commitment to scrap it if the review shows evidence of rising rents. David Cox, ARLA chief executive, likened the changes and regulations faced by the sector to a Tsunami and warned that the Tenant Fees Act is a complex piece of legislation.

Gillian Kent, chair of online letting agent Howsy, suggested that efficiencies alone can yield income while Jennie Fojtik, head of leasing at Tipi talked about the importance of data and that being the pivotal advantage that some agents are mastering.

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