PayProp UK boss Neil Cobbold has written to MPs outlining detailed plans that he believes would ensure the controversial Renters (Reform) Bill delivers its goals effectively.
The Bill had its long-anticipated second reading in the Commons on Monday and now enters the critical committee stage where it will be scrutinised line by line and amendments considered.
The draft legislation proposes the abolition of Section 21 – so-called ‘no fault’ evictions, although the government has reconfirmed recently in response to concerns from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee that this will be delayed until sufficient progress has been made in improving the court possession process.
Other measures outlined in the Bill include:
- The creation of a private rented sector ombudsman
- A new Private Rented Property Portal on which landlords would demonstrate compliance
- A provision to allow tenants the right to request keeping a pet in a property which the landlord could not unreasonably refuse.
PayProp, an automated rental payment and client accounting platform, has been following the progress of the Bill closely since its Parliamentary introduction in May, and has repeatedly urged the government to give more details about some of the headline proposals.
Cobbold says: “At PayProp, we are proud to champion the highest financial standards across the sector and, as such, welcome the measures in the Renters (Reform) Bill, which we believe will further drive up standards.
“But to help achieve this, the architects of the Bill must involve all relevant industry players and facilitate the harnessing of technology-enabled efficiencies and data across the private rented sector. Technology, specifically PropTech, has unmatched potential to enhance transparency, accountability, and security, and to deliver efficiencies and data-led insights for all parties involved.”
Going further, Cobbold offers to meet MPs and share the company’s own research which he says, ‘may help shed further light on the potential implications of the Bill.’
PayProp’s recent survey of letting agents found that, even though more than half of them were neutral or in favour of reform of the PRS, 62% viewed the current Bill negatively and 96% believed it would cause more landlords to exit the market.
Efficient and fair eviction reforms needed
Much of landlords’ concern centres around the abolition of Section 21 – which they believe would make it more difficult for them to re-possess their properties.
As the Bill stands, all evictions would be undertaken using Section 8 which are generally decided in court.
Cobbold says: “It is therefore critical that further action be taken to make the court eviction process as efficient as possible. Current delays can have tenants waiting over eight months for a court date, needlessly causing stress and anxiety for all parties to the rental contract as well as uncertainty among landlords.
“Whilst some grounds are discretionary – relying on a tribunal to decide outcomes on a case-by-case basis – evictions on mandatory grounds could be streamlined through the use of accurate verified and auditable arrears data collected by a transactional platform to speed up the process.
“We welcome the newly proposed mandatory eviction ground of persistent arrears, and propose that a further mandatory ground be introduced for when a landlord needs to refurbish a property.”
Compliance and standards
On the proposed creation of a property portal, Cobbold says: “PayProp is wholly supportive of the Property Portal concept. However, to ensure the Portal delivers enhanced compliance and standards whilst removing administrative burdens for letting agents and landlords, it is vital the Bill and the subsequent regulations set by the government harness the benefits of technology to ensure landlords are not overwhelmed with compliance paperwork.”
Included among his suggestions, he called for landlords to be able to add their managing and letting agents to the portal because of their compliance expertise and asked that when landlords are unable to gain access for essential repairs, evidence of access requests to tenants should be allowed to be uploaded to demonstrate attempts at compliance.
In total, Cobbold’s letter makes 22 recommendations to amend or clarify the legislation in its current form. It was sent prior to the Bill’s second reading, allowing MPs to consider his points before the key debate.