Lettings professionals roundly disapprove of the Renters (Reform) Bill in its current form, according to a new survey published by leading client accounting and automated rental payment specialists, PayProp UK.
PayProp is now calling on participants to write to their local MPs with comments and suggestions for improvement, which it says may bring about some last-minute changes if the Bill is enacted soon – or if not, may influence its ongoing direction under a new government.
As the Renters (Reform) Bill currently stands, it is viewed negatively by 62.1% of respondents, with just 4.4% feeling positive. Almost all respondents (96.2%) believed the Bill would cause more landlords to exit the market while 94% thought that fewer properties would be available, resulting in higher rents for tenants.
“Yet to be consulted”
Neil Cobbold, Managing Director of PayProp UK, said: “While tenant lobby groups and landlord representatives have been vocal about the wide-ranging impact of these reforms, one group that will be significantly affected by the changes have yet to be comprehensively consulted by government – lettings professionals.
“We know how valuable their feedback will be to getting these reforms right, so we put together this survey and report to give them the opportunity to voice their feelings on the proposed changes.”
PayProp surveyed a diverse range of lettings professionals (including agents, owners and administrators) most of whom manage hundreds of properties.
Lettings professionals were strongly opposed to the most talked about reform – the abolition of Section 21 evictions, with 78.1% opposed to the measure and just 5.5% in favour of it. Similarly, the proposal to end fixed-term tenancies in favour of periodic tenancies was greeted coolly, with 75.8% expressing negative views and a mere 8.2% reacting positively to the idea.
There was a warmer welcome for the Government’s plan to broaden the scope of Section 8 evictions, with 69.8% broadly in favour, but agents were divided on giving tenants the right to appeal rent increases. Here, 50% were neutral on the issue, 33.5% opposed to it and 16.4% in agreement with it.
Agents were narrowly in favour of the move to create a new private sector ombudsman (53.3%) but almost half (48.3%) opposed another reform – to make it easier for tenants to keep pets, with only 26.9% backing the plan.
A clear majority (73.1%) believed the proposals contained in the Bill would have a significant or very significant impact on their business, with the abolition of Section 21 causing them most concern, followed by the ending of fixed-term tenancies.
Cobbold said: “Overall, there are worries over the increased workload to comply with the new rules, the cost of training to get to grips with them, and a loss of income from fees associated with tenants moving. However, 83% of the letting professionals we surveyed are confident that they can master the new regulations and help landlords comply.
“Across all roles within the PRS, agents are concerned that more landlords will sell their buy-to-let properties, thereby restricting tenant choice and driving up prices.”
Finally, agents were not convinced that the measures contained in the Bill would be effectively enforced. More than half (57.7%) believed they would not, 31.9% weren’t sure and only 10.4% felt they would.
Agents should take action
“Our survey has revealed the strength of feeling in the industry surrounding the Renters (Reform) Bill, and it’s clear that agents across England want to see change,” concludes Cobbold.
“The government needs to urgently consult with lettings professionals to ensure these reforms are practical and workable for all. Meanwhile, there are steps letting agents can take to ensure their voice is heard: send our survey report to your local MP, explain the issues that your agencies, landlords and tenants will face if the Bill becomes law, and give your MP the information they need to make the right decisions for the industry as the Bill comes back to parliament for scrutiny and amendments.”
You can download a copy of the report and read the survey results in full here.