Mandatory electrical checks in private rented housing

Landlords are backing calls for the Government to introduce mandatory electrical safety checks in private rented housing.

A debate in Parliament on electrical safety in private rented housing was initiated by Mike Thornton-Liberal Democrat MP, with the Residential Landlords Association also supporting calls for legislation to ensure rented homes are checked by a registered electrician every ten years.

As it stands existing legislation only affects houses in Multiple Occupation and requires tests every five years. Owner occupied houses are only “recommended” to have electrical tests every ten years.

Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association said, “It is illogical that gas checks are required annually but electrical safety checks are applied only to a part of the market. As with gas, tenants should rightly expect that when they move into a property theelectrics are safe and should be able to see a dated certificate to prove this. However tenants must also not overload or abuse their own electrical equipment which is a frequent cause of fire and injury.”

UK growing as nation of renters

As home ownership follows a downward trend, there has been rapid growth in residential lettings with the UK edging closer to its European neighbours by becoming a nation of ‘renters’ says Dorian Gonsalves, CEO of Belvoir Lettings.

There has been rapid growth in residential lettings with over 15% of all UK homes (3.2m) now in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).
Some Government estimates predict a further rise of 33% in the residential market over the next eight years-taking private rented property to 20% of all UK homes by 2021.

“Over the past year the PRS has remained on a firm footing and despite Government ‘pump priming’ initiatives such as the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, there has been no real impact on the continued demand for rental property,” says Mr Gonsalves.

“Belvoir predict that in 2014, the number of people choosing to rent will continue to drive up demand. There are real indications of a recovery in the housing market with property prices predicted to rise, along with a projected 25% increase in Buy to Let (BTL) mortgage lending. With this we expect to see the re-emergence of more and more investment minded landlords looking to capitalise on this trend.”

“We now anticipate that over the next few years, new rented housing stock will come from different directions, partially from institutional investors returning to the market to provide much needed funding,” says Mr Gonsalves.

Letting Agents to be forced to sign up to approved complaints service

Better protection for tenants is the order of the day as letting agents are forced to sign up to one of three government-approved complaint services as a package of measures to give peace of mind.

Kris Hopkins, Housing Minister, announced the three approved ‘redress schemes’ which all property management and letting agents are required to join this month (15 April 2014).

The three services consisting of The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme-will offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees or poor service. Where a complaint is upheld, tenants and leaseholders could receive compensation. There are currently 3,000 agents, which is 40% of the industry, not signed up to any of these organisations.

The news comes as The Property Ombudsman announced a 23% increase in enquiries and complaints relating to letting agents in its annual report.

Mr Hopkins said: ‘ A small minority of agents are ripping people off, and giving the whole industry a bad name. That is why we will require all agents to belong to one of the official redress schemes. They will ensure tenants have a straightforward route to take action if they get a poor deal, while avoiding excessive red tape that would push up rents and reduce choice for tenants.’

The measures will come into force later this year as the changes are included in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, which received royal assent in 2013.

The government will also be introducing a voluntary code of practice for private landlords, a model three-year tenancy agreement and extra guidance to help councils tackle rogue landlords.

Christopher Hamer, the ombudsman at The Property Ombudsman said: ‘As the largest redress scheme in the property sector I am naturally very pleased that TPO has received official recognition from the government as an approved redress scheme.’

Taylors Residential Lettings Limited, Company no. 6002742, Regd Office: Suite 1, Invicta Business Centre, Monument Way, Ashford TN24 0HB