Last Updated: 20/09/2018
Having read the report by academics at the University of York released this month The Evolving Private Rented Sector: its Contribution and Potential, funded by the Nationwide Foundation, then those of you that read my blogs will know that I am in total agreement with the conclusions of the authors of this report.
I have advocated for a long time that there needs to be a fundamental review of the private rented sector in this country to help re-focus its role within the wider housing market and provide clarity as to what this role should be.
At present it is true to say the private rented sector at the lower end provides little security to tenants and instead focuses on the needs of owners and landlord. However, this is only part of the story and in a number of areas that Salix Living operates in, private landlords struggle to make ends meet due to the depressed property market in these areas and this in part contributes towards the poor level of property standard, as well as the number of properties sitting empty in these areas.
Salix Living as a social letting agency already provides solutions to the issues identified by the report. Properties managed or leased by us have to be checked and signed off by us as appropriate in terms of meeting the required minimum standard and compliance before we are prepared to accept them handed over to us from the landlord. During this stage we work with the landlord and provide a checklist of what work needs to be undertaken and carry out inspections before we would accept the property.
Once a property is under our control then we undertake annual inspections to monitor the property condition and ensure any works are carried out and all regulatory compliance requirements are met. A lot of private landlords don’t have the experience of managing and maintaining a property and tenants on low income and don’t understand what is required. Because we are part of a housing association then the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords is part of our DNA and we have the skills and experience in managing such properties and this type of tenant. Lastly we operate at affordable rent levels and so rents are kept at a manageable level even for those on housing benefit or universal credit.
If we are to provide safe, decent and affordable housing in these deprived areas and overcome poor stock condition and rogue and absentee landlords, through driving up property and management standards, then the answer to achieving this is to expand the social letting agency model and make it an integral part of a housing strategy for the private rented sector and combine this with stronger CPO powers for councils making it easier and quicker for them to take control of empty properties.