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When everyone has a home

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IPPR report calls for end to no-fault evictions

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) argues that England should replace fixed-term assured shorthold tenancies with open-ended tenancies. It is argued that this measure, combined with restricting landlords to increasing rent only once a year and in line with consumer price inflation, will improve security for tenants in the private rented sector (PRS). 

These, and other findings, are available in the IPPR's final report on the PRS, following on from an interim report which was published in December 2018. The research is focused on the PRS in England and surveyed groups of tenants and landlords throughout England as well as a survey carried out by Sky Data, the results of which are publicly available.

The rationale behind the research is that the PRS has grown substantially over the past 20 years, with a significant increase in the proportion of households with young children now living in private rented accommodation. They argue that the sector is no longer seen as short-term or transitional for many households and it is also a tenure of necessity rather than choice for many. This is against a background where rents are becoming unaffordable for many low income families with no choice other than to live in private rented homes, with welfare reform having a particularly negative impact on low income working families.

Tenants feel a lack of control and power imbalance in renting relationship

Issues emerging from tenant focus groups included the feeling of lacking control over their homes and the perception that landlords hold all the power in the relationship. Conversely, landlords expressed frustration when the need arose for removing a tenant for anti-social behaviour or rent arrears, citing the slow nature of the legal process. Both groups felt that more regulation of the sector would help to balance the power between tenants and landlords and remove the guesswork or learning through mistakes, which characterised much of their experiences.

 

Reform Universal Credit to better support households in the private rented sector

Rising rents relative to incomes meant that welfare support was increasingly out of step with local rents. The report therefore recommends that government should reform the Universal Credit (UC) system so that it better supported those households which, in the absence of available social housing, had no choice but to live in the PRS. This should include ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance rates, which have been frozen for the most part at 2015 rates, leading to increasing shortfalls between housing support and rent due and subsequent rent arrears and evictions. They also recommend that the housing element of UC should be paid directly to landlords (this is the default in Northern Ireland).

Improve quality of rented accommodation

Recent reports state that around 20% of PRS homes in England failed to meet the decent homes standard. The report recommends that the Government should establish a compulsory landlord register and create a Tenancy Management Service, which would allow for the potential for landlords found to be failing to maintain their properties to a decent standard, to be struck of the register and barred from letting out properties. They further recommend the introduction of a ‘Property MOT’, first proposed in a 2018 report by Julie Rugg and David Rhodes, which would aim to drive up standards in the sector.

Increase security for tenants

In addition to proposing open-ended tenancies and restrictions on rent increases, the report suggests that the process for landlords who wish to evice tenants in order to sell their property should be reformed.

Allowing tenants to feel more at home

In focus groups, tenants expressed frustration at their frequent inability  to decorate their homes and keep pets due to restrictive covenants in tenancy agreements. The report recommends that Government should prevent landlords from banning tenants from reasonable decoration and from having pets, except where the pets have proven to cause problems in the past or where a tenant lives in shared accommodation.

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Outside NI, Private Tenancies