Friday, 28 November 2014

CIH: regulate private sector

The Chartered Institute of Housing has called for more regulation to maintain standards in the private rented sector.

A report, Making the most of Northern Ireland’s private rented sector to meet housing need, which was published on Monday, suggests that improving access to and affordability of the private rented sector in Northern Ireland could help house more people.

It asked the Northern Irish Government, which collaborated in writing the report, to raise awareness of the positive aspects of living in the private rented sector.

The Northern Irish Government introduced measures to help councils regulate private landlords in June this year, including powers to enter a private property to test its quality.

The CIH has recommended rolling out the Smartmove advice service - a scheme to help vulnerable people get decent private sector housing across Northern Ireland - and giving housing associations a property management role in helping maintain standards.

The minister for social development, Nelson McCausland, said: ‘I welcome all work to improve standards in the private rented sector which is such an important part of the housing sector, this paper clearly demonstrates - particularly through the personal stories of tenants - that the sector is becoming more professional in the provision of housing to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.’

Working with the department for social development and housing advice service Smartmove, the CIH has also launched a new CIH Level 2 Certificate for Landlords to provide information on legislative requirements, dealing with complaints and disputes, financial considerations and knowing how to properly maintain property.

It is the first CIH qualification specifically designed for the private rented sector landlord.

The CIH in Northern Ireland has also appointed Jim Dennison as chief executive this week. Mr Dennison will be on a fixed-term contract until November next year. He was previously head of learning and development.

Former Northern Ireland chief executive Grainia Long is currently interim chief executive of the CIH in England. In November she will retain the post or move back to Northern Ireland.

Readers' comments (11)

  • F451

    If regualtion is not introduced then the darkest days of private housing will return, and we will all be left paying the cost.

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  • Do we live in the 1960s?. Today's tenants have the internet, they can check a property in a few clicks and visit the property for themselves. We seem to live in a nanny state.

    Regulations costs money, have a look at the HMO regulations. The cost of licenses is ridiculous and has been used by misused councils for Social Engineering and revenue raising. Every council had its own HMO rules and regulations.

    I notice in one area, the rents for bedsits shot up from £50 to £80 per week. It had a ripple effect and rushed up the rents for studios and 1 beds....

    There are plenty of laws to deal with poor quality properties....

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  • Policy focus around the PRS should always be on driving out the worst rogue landlords, not ticking boxes.
    If regulation achieves that objective most landlords and all others concerned with the PRS would applaud it.
    Suggest a review of the landlord registration scheme in Scotland - to us at LettingFocus we see a lot of money spent but few rogue landlords dealt with and disliked by most landlords because they see it as a tax on decent landlords but with little in terms of output (i.e. rogue landlords put out of business.)
    Also, a review of the Sheds With Beds story (Southall). Let's see what lessons can be learnt there and apply sensible policies - i.e. what further powers to LA's really need.
    Agree with Concerned Landlord that the variation in HMO Licensing costs accross the UK is rather odd and illogical and wonder how the variation can be justified.

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  • Further to my previous comment, the Scottish Govt's review of the Landlord Registration Scheme is here:
    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/07/13111732/1
    We think it makes pretty grim reading in terms of efffectiveness in meeting objectives and budgetary accountability.
    To quote from the paper:
    "Within the central administration of the scheme, there is scope for improvements in relation to the administrative process associated with fee payment, reporting and governance.
    Fees: The fee payment system generates delays in payment processing and failed payments are resource intensive and take a long time to rectify. If timescales are improved, local authorities will be able to more effectively plan resources and reconcile the data with their records, which should be standard practice.
    ....Resources are focused on the administration of the scheme rather than investigation or enforcement activity. A balance must be reached in order to ensure registration while generating sufficient income to cover costs.
    ....Many local authorities do not have a performance and monitoring system in place for Landlord Registration.
    ...There is evidence that the sector is now more aware of its obligations when acting as a private sector landlord and there have been some improvements in landlord behaviour. However, the evidence collected suggests that Landlord Registration has not removed the 'worst' landlords from the sector."
    OK, there has been some improvments in Scotland but we think the costs outweigh the benefits achieved.
    What's needed for the PRS is sensible regulation, fairly enforced with real teeth to focus on and drive out the rogue landlords - the sort of operator that most in the PRS do not want to have in the sector.

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  • Joe Halewood

    Concerned Landlord states the old myth - Regulation costs money!!

    Well yes it does as we pay UNREGULATED privte landlords £112.61 pw in HB yet pay REGULATED ones £80.29.

    So yes it does cost money - the public purse that it and it works out at £2.3bn extra we as taxpayers fork out to UNREGULATED private landlords than we would for the same number of REGULATED ones.

    £2.3bn thats £2,300,000,000 in figures and yes Concerned Landlord its a huge amount.

    David Lawrenson makes some valid points and especially about rogue landlords which does tarnish the reputation of the many good private landlords. Yet it is the lack of regulation that allows this to happen and attempting to ignore that by deflecting with one report in Scotland is just excuse.

    What does make "...pretty grim reading in terms of efffectiveness in meeting objectives and budgetary accountability...." is the fact that UNREGULATED PSLs get over 40% more in HB than regulated ones which still make a profit. Or in common parlance severely taking the Michael!

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  • All morons and dom commenting here seem to live in chucko land. The reason private housing cost more because private housing is run by private individual and they buy property at market price and its expensive to buy property at market price and they borrow to pay for the property so individual mortgage and property price is greater, due to that the rent for private sector property is higher. Where as with social housing the rent is lower because the properties are owned by council, so no mortgages and no high property prices as the land are owned by the council (tax payer) and the building is cheaper to build as no finance from private banks involved.

    I had to answer this because some morons been boiling my blood when they were comparing social landlord properties with private properties. How can you compare subsidised by tax payer social housing rent with private housing rent (where at private housing no subsidy of the government been received to build or buy the property).

    Regulation will drive more good landlords out as the profit margin will be less and it will also drive rent upward as the regulation will take more time and manpower, in return more money will be required to pay for the regulation. Yes we need good landlords and fair play in the housing benefit field, as we can see social landlord get paid housing benefit direct to landlord, where as private landlord get the housing benefit paid direct to tenants.

    Most private landlord provide furnitures and appliances to the tenant and hence more risk involved as they can be damaged and normal wear and tear by tenants, where as the social landlord do not provide any furnitures or appliances and nor do any decoration to the property as they expect the tenant to do it.
    Its two different market, private housing is different from social housing, so when some morons speak up without not knowing whats the difference between these two, it just boils my blood.

    THINK before commenting!

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  • F451

    Hi Dav - hopefully that has helped reduce your blood to a simmer.

    So you believe that the taxpayer funding the massive amounts of local housing allowance to afford the private rent levels a price worth paying, or would you rather see that money used to build homes that could be let at much lower rents?

    By the way, the much lower social rents fund the repayment of the original building debt, albeit over a long loan period at a low interest rate. Admittidly this does work out cheaper than having loads of individuals pick up ex-local authority stock at knock down prices at auction so that they can rent them on, but that is what happens when short term is put ahead of long term in government policy.

    Does it make your blood boil that the taxpayer is paying so much money to fund the private landlord high rent product when that money could be used to build low rent community asset?

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  • If we are serious about driving out the so-called 'rogue landlords' (not the term I would personally use) we must stop focusing on the Scottish Landlord Registration system and return to the recomendations presented in the Rugg Review.

    Her proposals were nothing like the Scottish system which requires landlords in the private sector to prove they are 'fit for purpose'.

    What on earth is wrong with a simple licencing scheme that provides a unique licence number to be used in all landlord-related activities? If a landlord doesn't have one then why not?

    Simples!!

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  • Sharon
    Our experience at LettingFocus suggests you are correct.
    The Rugg Review did indeed contain many sensible policies and for us, the recommendations around landlords in that review made real sense and still do.
    I simply highlight the Scottish scheme to suggest that govt learns from that and avoids the mistakes made therein.
    You are right too about the use of the term "rogue landlords", but unfortunately there is a small minority about - and they do tend to generate the most headlines - so the terms works. (And "Landlord and Tenant Enjoy Good Relationship and At End of 7 Year Tenancy, Tenant Gets Deposit Back in Full" does not a Dispatches Channel 4 doc make!)

    As we see it councils already have a lot of powers to deal with "not fit to live in" properties, though the experience at Ealing (Sheds for Beds) does indicate a little more beefing up of powers may still yet be needed.

    Final points
    1. Accreditation for landlords (possibly along lines of Rugg suggestion) must be made simple and easy. Requiring landlords to jump through lots of hoops before becoming accredited (and able to let to certain segments of the market), will lead straight to a lack of PRS supply coming through and to councils having to look to far more expensive alternatives.
    2. Incentivising landlords to let to LHA tenants etc - is we think very dangerous ground and could lead to private landlords churning to earn next incentive fee. In our opinion this is too expensive and not necessary anyway with the right PRS strategies in place.

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  • Rick Campbell

    I find it strange that a caring-sharing government would embark on 'shafting' those in the best rented housing (i.e. social housing) whilst giving free rein to the unregulated and generally of a lower standard (of 'decency' and service standard).

    Oh dear, another aberration from me today as in 'caring-sharing' -- perhaps the hoverment's (pmsl) dictionary has fallen on my head and I've been confused by their definition of 'fairness' which certainly isn't the same as mine.

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