Communities and Local Government Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 50

Back to Report

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Communities and Local Government Committee

on Monday 13 May 2013

Members present:

Mr Clive Betts (Chair)

Simon Danczuk

Mark Pawsey

John Pugh


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: David Shepherd, Assistant Director, Housing, Employment and Skills, Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Ruth Abbott, Housing Standards and Adaptations Manager, City of York Council, and John Statham, Head of Housing Partnerships, Leeds City Council, gave evidence.

Q523 Chair: Thank you all for coming. This is the seventh evidence session of the Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into the private rented sector. Thank you for coming along to meet us in Leeds Town Hall. I will start off by thanking Leeds Council very much indeed for making the arrangements for us today and hosting this particular hearing.

As a matter of proper formality at the beginning, we have to put on record, again, any interests we have in this particular sector as Members of Parliament. I have a flat that I rent out.

Simon Danczuk: My wife has a small interest in a small rented property in Rochdale.

John Pugh: I am a tenant.

Chair: You are a tenant. Okay-we probably all are, in various forms, as well. To begin with, could each of you just say, for the sake of our records, who you are and the organisation you are representing this afternoon?

David Shepherd: I am David Shepherd. I am Assistant Director for Regeneration and Culture at Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

Ruth Abbott: I am Ruth Abbott. I am Housing Standards and Adaptations Manager with the City of York Council.

John Statham: I am John Statham. I am Head of Housing Partnerships with Leeds City Council.

Q524 Chair: Can I just begin, appropriately, with John Statham? Once again, thank you for the help you have given to us with our visit today. What we have learned already is that there are a number of different private rented markets in Leeds with their different characteristics, different tenants and different landlords. Could you just say a little bit about that and what the proportions are? Has it changed much over the years?

John Statham: There are a number of markets within Leeds and it has changed over the years and is changing now. We are in the city centre, so we can start there.

In the past 10 or 12 years, we have seen a significant development of flatted accommodation within the city centre. It is usually high quality. The market regulates itself because of the type of accommodation it provides and who it is providing it for. It is largely for young professionals and young people wanting to live in the city centre. It certainly grew significantly from 2000 to where we are now. There were, initially, problems with volume and demand, but that seems to have settled down now and the market, as I say, tends to regulate itself.

We then have a smaller high-end market, which is located in and around the outer ring road of the city-so, if you like, in the suburbs of the city. Again, that generally has regulated itself. The market has been for young people and young families, although increasing issues with affordability are now putting pressure on that market in terms of how much people can afford out of their income.

We have a significant student population in Leeds and, traditionally, that has lived in the Leeds 6 area. Historically, we never have had a significant amount of purpose-built halls of residence, so large numbers of first-year students have always lived in private rented accommodation. Over the last five or six years, that has significantly shifted. The demands of students have become significantly higher, with issues around access to wi-fi and things of that nature. We have seen a growth, in the last four or five years, of purpose-built flatted accommodation, located closer to the universities or city centre. That then means the traditional student market in the Leeds 6 area has started to change and the council has to look at that and work with the market itself as to how we deal with it.

In the inner city we have significant markets, which you have seen this morning, that are largely pre-1919, largely poorer-quality housing and largely in the housing benefit market. We have concentrated a lot of our efforts in terms of regulation in that area because of the poorer quality of the accommodation. We have got great concerns as to what impact the welfare changes will have in that area, whether or not that market then becomes even more squeezed and then what happens as a result of that, particularly in relation to links in to homelessness. That is an overview of our market.

Q525 Chair: To Ruth Abbott and David Shepherd, how do your cities compare with that? You both referred to the fact there has been significant growth in the private rented sector in recent years. Has that come about because new properties have been built specifically for the private rented sector, or is it properties that were in another tenure switching over to the private rented sector?

David Shepherd: In Bradford it is the latter: property switched over into the private rented sector. We saw a lot of those come through buy-to-let mortgages that people took advantage of. What we did see with that as well, just from anecdotal evidence alone, was that a lot of people do not know what to do with those properties then. They have not entered into private renting with any particular business plan in mind. They do not own many properties. Often, not necessarily purposefully, they end up with problems that we need to intervene in, whether that be through encouraging or educating them or, ultimately, enforcing as well. It has definitely been as a result of conversion, rather than building new properties.

Ruth Abbott: I would say that that was echoed in York. The only thing with York is it is a very compact city and a place where people seek to invest. We are the third fastest growing city in the country and people come in with money to invest in this, particularly wanting to enter the student market, which tends to mean that the people who want to go on housing benefit are excluded from that market and are pushed out to the poorer types of properties, clustering in pre-1919s. In particular, they are excluded from properties near the universities and colleges, which is a big swathe. If you think of York as being very compact, there is not really anywhere for them to go, because almost everything is within walking distance, or at least within cycling distance, of the university. It does leave very few areas left for people to actually get a rent at a reasonable rate.

Q526 Chair: In terms of students, it has been mentioned that, as in all university cities, there has been some building out of purpose-built student accommodation in Leeds. Is that happening in York and Bradford? Is there an impact in terms of the other properties that students rent? One thing we heard this morning when talking to landlords and tenants is that, often, even in the traditional private rented sector, standards have been pushed up in the student areas, perhaps because they have a better understanding of what their entitlements are and pressure to improve those standards. The worst standards seem to be left for other people who perhaps have not got that understanding of what their rights as tenants are.

David Shepherd: In Bradford, there has been a considerable new build in the student market and, by and large, that has pushed standards up in that market. We have started seeing people move away from traditional student-let properties into the new build where they can afford it, because the rents are considerably different for those. There will always be a market for students who do not want to pay the amount for purpose-built accommodation.

What has been interesting to me is that we have had a particular case where we had some very high-grade student accommodation built, but it highlighted an inconsistency between the standards that we enforce through the Housing Act and the HHSRS and building regulations, because there often is a difference between those. There would be a lower standard within building regulations; however, when you apply the higher standards within the Housing Act, you find that there is a problem. That is what we found with some of the new-build student accommodation.

One of the issues for this Committee, which will be of interest, will be to try and simplify and iron out those inconsistencies where they do exist, because it does present a significant problem for local authorities when they are looking to enforce.

Q527 Chair: Is it possible you can give us some detail on that?

David Shepherd: Yes, I can give you detail.

Chair: That would be helpful. We would be looking for a written note, so we can take that on board, as it is a very interesting point that we have not had made to us before.

David Shepherd: There are other areas of inconsistency as well, where we find that staircases that are ladders, effectively, up into a room that could be a bedroom are allowed under building regs; for private rented standards, and in terms of the Housing Act, that is not appropriate. Also, bedrooms without windows would be another issue we find that would pass in terms of building regulations, but not in terms of the standards enforced through the Housing Act. You might see it as a technicality, but it is one that sometimes causes problems for the enforcement officers.

Ruth Abbott: The only thing I would say for York is that the accommodation for students tended, in the past, to be built close to universities. What we are actually seeing now is they are accommodated in the new purpose-built accommodation, which is coming down into York itself. That is great, to be honest. It stops them from being isolated up on the hill, as such. That has been a change over the last couple of years in that we have seen the growth of new purpose-built student accommodation in the city, which is of benefit to the city.

Q528 Chair: Finally, just in terms of Bradford, it obviously has a very ethnically diverse population; does that create any further issues that you have to address in terms of private renting? Are there extra challenges for the local authority as a result of that?

David Shepherd: Anecdotally, we deal with enforcement issues, and we have a lot of landlords who are of Asian origin, but we would not have hard evidence to say that there are particular differences.

The other issue we are looking at is updating our information. Census data has only just come out and we are looking to that data. If we do get additional information in time, we will tell you. In the main, it does not present particular enforcement issues for us because we find that there will be enforcement issues, whatever the characteristics of the household. There does not seem to be a pattern, as such, across the district.

Q529 Mark Pawsey: We have heard from each of you about the growth in the market and the challenge of maintaining standards within the sector. The Housing Act 2004 gives local authorities the powers to set up a scheme of selective licensing where certain conditions are met. You seem to have, as authorities, different approaches to that. John, you have set up a system of selective licensing. Can you tell us how you went about that process and which areas you chose to apply it to? Just talk us through that.

John Statham: Yes, we have a selective licensing area in east Leeds, in Cross Green. The process from the concept to the actual start was about two years; that gives you an idea of the problem of establishing a selective licensing scheme. We spent in the region of £80,000 to £100,000 in bringing that scheme to life, so, again, there has been a significant cost in that process.

The problem with developing them is that time frame: the consultation is required, the business case needs developing and there are approval processes that you have to go through. Having said that, we are now halfway through the five-year period of the selective licensing scheme and it has been extremely successful. We have certainly worked very closely with partners, which is critical for that sort of scheme to be a success. Partners have included both agencies within the local authority, but particularly the police, fire service and agencies of that nature.

In selective licensing, what one is trying to do is to do more than just the standards of the property; one is trying to tackle issues in the area, whether that is crime and disorder or fly-tipping, as well as to tackle the standards in properties. Certainly, what we found is that there were more privately rented properties that we needed to license than we anticipated. Clearly, that has given us a benefit. We have started licensing the properties and we have taken enforcement and prosecuted a number of landlords in the area for their failure to comply. Certainly, antisocial behaviour and general environmental issues in the area have improved significantly as a result of the work.

Q530 Mark Pawsey: Are there any firm stats you can give us on that? Can you talk to us about the incidence of antisocial behaviour, or numbers and quality of improvements that have been made to properties?

John Statham: We could certainly give you statistics around that. I can arrange for those to be given to you.

Q531 Mark Pawsey: If I might go to the other two witnesses, neither of you have introduced those schemes. Ruth, you have said there is very little hope of introducing that in York. Is that because the rules are too tight or are you put off by the idea that it is going to take two years, in the same way as they found in Leeds?

Ruth Abbott: We did not think we had the tests, such as the antisocial behaviour or the low demand. Houses always sell very rapidly; even now they do not hang around on the market. What we thought we would prefer to have as an approach was to look at controlling, with a number of HMOs-again, I go back to the dominance of the shared student market of the universities and the colleges-where we have introduced Article 4 and removed the permitted development rights-

Q532 Mark Pawsey: May I just ask: if those two tests did not exist, would you still want to go for a system of selective licensing?

Ruth Abbott: I would not go for selective licensing. What we would be very keen on is looking at a process of licensing landlords, not necessarily their properties, and looking at the way that we can support landlords, so we know where the landlords are. Similarly to what John and David said, most of the landlords in York are very small landlords-they have only two or three properties-and what we would like to do is to have a system where we know where they are and we know how we can give advice, information and knowledge to improve. They are not rogue landlords; they are just landlords who tend to be-I hate to say the word "unprofessional", but that is not their main business. They have bought a house or maybe a couple of houses for their retirement, looking to the future, and it is an investment for them. What we would like to do is to support them.

Q533 Mark Pawsey: Are you actively doing things to remind those kinds of landlords what their obligations are to their tenants?

Ruth Abbott: We regularly hold what we call our annual landlord fair. We have what we call a code of practice for landlords. What we feel we are missing is a scheme.

At the moment we are looking to introduce an accreditation scheme that we have been developing in partnership with landlords and other stakeholders in the city. The four key elements of that mirror some of the stuff to do with licensing. It mirrors the stuff to do with fit and proper person. It mirrors the stuff to do with management standards and physical standards. The fourth element that we are really keen on is introducing core responsibility tools and core training, so we are actually improving their knowledge and awareness. As I say, most of the time when we find enforcement issues-when we go back to it-it is because they did not know, and we want to make sure they have that information there as early on as possible.

Q534 Mark Pawsey: David, your authority has not introduced discretionary licensing because you are bothered about penalising good landlords. Why should good landlords be penalised by registration in an accreditation scheme?

David Shepherd: They will have to pay a fee to the authority to regulate the behaviour where they were previously working in line with the expectations of them. Just doing that penalises better-quality landlords.

Q535 Mark Pawsey: We heard today from landlords who told us they were quite happy to pay that fee because that gave them a sense of accreditation and drove the bad landlords out of the sector.

David Shepherd: You have heard from different landlords from the ones my staff and I speak to. We have got a lot of experience. Previously, I worked with Sheffield City Council and I had experience of managing a similar portfolio there, and it was exactly the same arrangement there. Whenever we broached these subjects with landlords, they were loth to pay-they were loth to pay even the HMO licence fee that they have to pay. We also find from experience that we, as authorities, pick up the costs of those schemes. If you look at the HMO example, the licence fee that we take in for that is around a fifth of the cost of running the overall scheme to an expected standard.

Q536 Mark Pawsey: To Ruth and John: how much do you charge landlords? John, you have introduced your scheme; what is the cost of accreditation?

John Statham: I have not got a figure to hand, but I can get that for you.

Q537 Mark Pawsey: The message we got today from landlords in Leeds was that they were very happy to pay it. I am wondering why landlords in Leeds are happy to pay it, but those in Bradford are not.

David Shepherd: I can only tell you what I know from speaking to landlords. I am more interested in the experience that my officers in both councils have had in working with landlords on a proactive basis, where we have had really great success. We work on targeted areas. In Bradford, over the last few years, we have improved over 1,000 properties to standards set out within the HHSRS, through a proactive working approach. I would say that the money that we put into that is money better spent for Bradford than it is in putting a selective licensing scheme in place because, at the end of the day, what we are interested in is improving the quality of tenanted properties and ensuring tenants do not fall foul of poor standards, either because of the property or because of their landlord’s behaviour. I believe, from our experience, that that is better delivered through working hand in hand with landlords and enforcing where you have to, because we are not a soft authority on badquality landlords.

Q538 Mark Pawsey: You are saying that, because you do not have this discretionary licensing scheme, you have got more money to put into enforcement. Does that mean that John has got less money to put into enforcement because he has got a licensing scheme?

David Shepherd: I cannot speak for John.

John Statham: No, our position is that we have tried to maintain a balance across those areas.

Q539 Mark Pawsey: Does the income from landlords cover its costs in Leeds?

John Statham: Overall, our licensing scheme is financially balanced covering the overall cost of our licensing scheme.

Q540 Simon Danczuk: Just following on from that then, David, are you opposed to any licensing or any accreditation? You do not like regulation. What are you in favour of?

David Shepherd: That is not true; I did not say that. I said I am opposed to bringing in selecting licensing. We are definitely in support of accreditation; we have set that out in the evidence that we have put before you. We have run accreditation schemes in the past to some success, but they are difficult to keep going when there is no clear incentive for the landlords to continue working with you, particularly when you are dealing with some of the landlords who, as Ruth explained, have not necessarily got a business plan before them in the way that you or I would expect.

We have suggested that there are ways that the Government could look at working with local authorities to incentivise landlords to work with an accreditation scheme. We think there could be a decent deal for landlords, which does not necessarily contravene state aid rules, such as making equity loan finance available for them to invest in their properties and bring them up to appropriate standards. Government has an opportunity now to look, with the introduction of the various welfare reform measures, and to think again about housing benefit direct. If you want a landlord to work with a local authority, there is no greater incentive than to pay housing benefit direct.

Q541 Simon Danczuk: We will come on to that. Just to be clear, do you have an accreditation scheme in Bradford?

David Shepherd: We had an accreditation scheme, but it is no longer operating effectively because of the reasons I have explained. Landlords, basically, voted with their feet because they could not see what the incentives for them remaining within the scheme were. We were prepared to put the effort in.

Q542 Simon Danczuk: Just to finish the point, does Bradford think that landlords should be regulated in some or any way, or no way at all, compared with what they are now?

David Shepherd: There is appropriate provision within the legislation in order to enforce. There is a particular issue around agents, though.

Q543 Simon Danczuk: We will come on to agents. Other than what is already in place, does Bradford not think it needs any other form of regulation or any structure to it?

David Shepherd: No, other than what I previously said about ironing out some of the contradictions between the various regulations and statutes that do cause some problems.

Q544 Simon Danczuk: I am sure you cannot answer this, David, but it would be interesting to know whether your tenants in Bradford agree with your view. Talking of tenants, Ruth, is it right that you are proposing an accreditation scheme for tenants in York? Can you tell us a bit about that?

Ruth Abbott: It is in the early stages. In a way, it has almost come out of the welfare reform changes and is to do with our social tenants, because we believe we may have a number of properties of social landlords in York where it is a case of people wanting to rent out rooms to help pay for some of the changes, because now they are not going to get the benefit. Basically, we are looking at how we can actually improve the tenant’s ability to find accommodation by giving them some accreditation. At the moment, the only thing we have put in place is to do some checks with North Yorkshire Police, and we will be revealing those background checks only if we think it is appropriate to do so. That will only be on the basis of the tenant saying yes, they are happy for us to do that. It is a very light-touch approach that we are taking with tenants to help them to find accommodation.

Q545 Simon Danczuk: Starting with you, John, what steps do you take, as an authority, to inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities?

John Statham: We have got a range of information and guidance that we publish through various forms, such as in a leaflet or on our website. Every time we visit the tenant who has requested that service from us, we give them information and access about their rights. We have a strong benefits advisory service in the city, which can also support them in terms of advice about how much, or what, they are entitled to. We have a range of activities that help tenants. Tenants do sometimes feel worried about going to local authorities to request service and support. Tenants of the poorer landlords perhaps worry about whether they will be evicted if they are seen to be causing a problem, so we also try to arrange for advice for them on their legal rights within whatever tenancy agreements they hold. We do quite a bit with tenants.

Q546 Simon Danczuk: Ruth, how does your authority support tenants in their rights and responsibilities?

Ruth Abbott: Again, we have very similar kinds of things. We have a well-developed website. We also have a housing options service, for when somebody comes in to the council to get advice about not only what their rights and responsibilities are, but what options are out there. We have also, in the last couple of years, set up a social lettings agency as part of the council, called Your Home, which helps tenants to find accommodation.

Q547 Simon Danczuk: Does that include the private sector?

Ruth Abbott: It is in the private rented sector, so we let, through the social letting agency, about 75 to 80 homes now that are in the private rented sector, but they are managed privately by the letting agency. Again, that is to try to help tenants-particularly tenants who were in receipt of housing benefits-to find accommodation, because it is so scarce in York at the moment.

Q548 Simon Danczuk: David, in terms of supporting tenants, what do you do?

David Shepherd: We have the same arrangements in terms of information and advice. We do have the bond guarantee scheme in place as well to enable people to move into the private rented sector without any obstruction to them; literally hundreds of people have taken advantage of that and that has assisted with our social housing waiting list quite considerably, because it is the same people who will be putting pressure on social housing.

At the same time, through the bond guarantee, we are able to construct a dialogue with landlords to ensure that those properties are of an appropriate standard and are maintained at an appropriate standard. That has been very effective. In addition to that, in West Yorkshire, Leeds included, we run a lettings approach through a web-based tool that Kirklees developed on our behalf. That came into operation just over a year ago; it was one of the CLG pilots for new lettings approaches. We do try to look at, I suppose, innovative ways that will benefit tenants when they are looking for accommodation, and also ensure that there is appropriate advice when things go wrong when they are in that accommodation.

Q549 John Pugh: Can I speak to John? We were privileged earlier today to talk to many landlords and tenants in your neck of the woods in the city. Practically none of them had a bad word to say about the council in its role as the regulator. Do you find the regulation of the private rented sector complex and difficult to interpret?

John Statham: It is complex, but it is not that difficult to interpret. We have worked with landlords-this is perhaps why they have good things to say about us-to make sure that they understand why enforcement action would be taken and what they need to do to prevent that action from being taken. Certainly, the joint work we have done, whether it is through the accreditation scheme or with the associations, has helped us greatly, to be quite honest.

Q550 John Pugh: David, in your evidence you said that the regulations were difficult to interpret. John disagrees with you here. Why is there this disagreement? What is it that is difficult to interpret?

David Shepherd: As I have already said, there are conflicts between-

John Pugh: We have all agreed it is complex. There is no dispute that the regulation is complex, but I was on the point of whether it was difficult to interpret and whether there was serious ambiguity around it.

David Shepherd: I did not say "complex"; I said there are conflicts within the legislative provisions set out that govern operations in this area. I have already talked about the differences between building regulations and the Housing Act and Regulatory Reform order. We have to put protocols in place for enforcement between ourselves as local authorities and the fire authorities to ensure we are absolutely clear as to who has got enforcement responsibility within the area. Again, that is not altogether clear from reading the legislation. There are some complexities, but they are just brought about by the conflicts. All I am suggesting there is that there is a read across between the different legislative provisions and that there is a standardised approach that puts everyone in place.

Q551 John Pugh: In your view, is it a matter of making a few good tweaks to the regulation and legislation, or is it a question of having a complete overhaul and a new look at it?

David Shepherd: I would suggest it is the former, rather than the latter. I prefer not to have new legislation introduced where it is not necessary, but then again that is not my decision-it is yours.

Q552 John Pugh: Ruth, what do you think? Are all the tools and levers available now, or do you think we need to change things?

Ruth Abbott: The only thing I would say is necessary is to know your landlords and how to contact them. There is potentially a role for having a registration scheme of all landlords so that we are able to provide that information and training. We have put that forward definitely for the letting agent, but having some simple registration scheme for landlords so that we know to contact them, where they are-

Q553 John Pugh: Should that be mandatory?

Ruth Abbott: That should be mandatory. I am not looking for all their properties, but just being able to contact the landlords and being able to provide information. Also, there is a need to do some work on the training and the knowledge to support them. Without having that simple registration scheme, I do not see how we can provide that training and the knowledge.

Q554 Chair: Someone the other day said to us that they could see the different ways we needed to bring to book those landlords who were persistent offenders, and they were talking about something like a fixed penalty notice with the council having the power to issue it and then take the money back to help cover their costs. Would any of you support that approach? Is this one you have not been asked about before?

John Statham: Again, that sounds like you would need a significant influx of resources to be issuing fixed penalty notices and then to be managing whatever happens with the payments or non-payments of it. We are all pretty much agreed that the current arrangements on regulation are rounded; it is just they can be complex. As David said, a few tweaks-

Q555 Chair: It is just that councils tell us they have not got the resources to do as much as they would like in this area.

John Statham: I think that is true.

Q556 Chair: It is a way of trying to get some money back from the people who are not doing the work, where you have to spend a lot of time and effort making them do the work and getting them to help with your costs.

John Statham: As long as they pay.

Ruth Abbott: This issue with housing legislation, in particular, is that it is about improving the property, at the end of the day. I am not quite sure how giving a fixed penalty notice results in the actual work being done to the property.

Q557 Chair: If they do not do it, they get another one, I presume.

Ruth Abbott: It is about doing both, is it not?

John Statham: I would suggest that pursuing somebody through the courts and succeeding in the prosecution is far more effective than issuing a fixed penalty notice. They would then become like parking fines getting thrown on the back seat of the car.

David Shepherd: Unfortunately, the courts are incredibly inconsistent when it comes to fines, I would suggest. Recently, we had a landlord taken through the courts process who was prosecuted and then, within a month, he was back in front of the courts and prosecuted a second time. However, the courts only offered a £300 fine, which was not much of a disincentive for him to stop doing what he was doing in putting tenants in jeopardy. We do find that some judges will be prepared to issue quite strong and large fines to send a message, and this is part of the judicial process, but others are certainly not consistent. That is difficult given the amount of work that is put into every individual case.

Q558 Chair: Let us move on to the length of tenancies. We were in Germany the other week where they have a very different system, in which tenants effectively get tenancy for life. However, here we have these relatively short tenancies, which may be okay for mobile, single people who may be thinking about moving to a different place next year. Do you think we do need longer-term tenancies for families, who are increasingly occupying private rented properties, and are thinking about their kids remaining at the same school as well as them staying in the same house? How can we achieve that? What would be the way forward?

Ruth Abbott: That is a really difficult one to do because there is a need, as you say, with families in particular. There is some concern about the fact that, in particular, the mortgage companies perhaps penalise and say to landlords, "You can’t give longer tenancies than that," and that is a condition of when they are providing mortgages to those who invest in the market.

We are looking, all of the time, at how to incentivise landlords to give extended tenancies. I do not know if you can do that through changes to the law-I do not know whether that would work or not, to be honest-but we are looking at ways of saying, "How can we give 12-month tenancies, two-year tenancies through the Your Home social letting agency?" At the moment that is the way we think we can do it. There are some restrictions with that. As I understand, with some mortgages, some landlords cannot do that.

John Statham: Yes, we need to look at it. If we can find a way through extending tenancies, that is very worth while. One of the issues is that, yes, we are about improving properties, but we are also about improving communities. If somebody has got a six-month tenancy and is here today and gone tomorrow, there is no buy in into that property or into that community, necessarily, because they may be in a different part of the city, or a different city, in six months’ time. If people could have a longer tenancy, they would perhaps be more inclined to be part of the community, to look at the changing environmental issues within the community and to support the community.

It is very difficult, though, in the lower end of the market to do that, because at that end, landlords are mainly reliant on the housing benefit payment. They just want the money. They are not really that bothered about who is in there or what is happening with the community, to some extent. I do think it would be beneficial if we could have longer tenancies. I dare say that landlords would argue that that would then restrict their ability to get their property back if they needed to. It is quite a difficult one, but I would be in favour of longer tenancies.

David Shepherd: Longer tenancies can be granted, clearly, at the present time, if the landlord wishes to do so, but having the assured shorthold tenancy there as a backstop option will always be used by landlords. As John has already said, that is the failsafe option for them. What we find is, again, just looking at what happens in a case, we see a lot of retaliatory evictions if somebody has approached a local authority for assistance and the landlord can end up evicting very quickly with assured shorthold tenancy, which does not help, particularly with more families moving into this tenure, because they do not have the choice within the owner-occupier market. I would definitely be in favour of longer-term tenancies; I am not so sure how you can achieve that by having the assured shorthold tenancy available to everybody at the same time, because it will always be the preferred approach for landlords.

Q559 Chair: One thing that some landlords have said to us is, "We will be content having a longer tenancy, but where we do have the occasional tenant who just is very difficult and doesn’t pay the rent, at least we know if it’s six months we get rid of them at the end of the six months and that’s it. But if we have to go through a process of evicting them for non-payment, that can take three or four months in itself." Would there be a trade off with longer tenancy as long as you pay your rent, but a quicker way of getting rid of a tenant who does not pay their rent?

John Statham: There is a broader issue here about how much is expected of a private landlord in managing his or her tenant or tenants. If you look in the council sector, it takes us about six months to get through the process if we want to evict somebody, and you can spend half that time waiting for the courts to give you the time to do it. I am not sure about that. There is a real issue there. More and more, we are now housing the private sector tenants who might, traditionally, have been housed in the council sector or the third sector. The need for support in that tenancy is great, and the difficulty for the landlord is that they do not have those skills and many of them are not set up to manage that type of tenancy, whereas in the public sector, housing authorities have clearly been doing that for years-they have the skills and the professionalism. There is a broader issue there that we need to look at and how we overcome it, because I cannot see that changing. I can see it being more and more, actually, as the squeeze on affordable housing becomes bigger and bigger. That is the broader issue for me that we need to probably address.

Q560 Chair: Letting agents have been mentioned. There is the suspicion that they rather like the idea of regular changes of tenancies. It is a bit like football agents saying, "Can you find another club next year because we get a payoff for the transfer?" Letting agents always deny this, of course, and say that it does not happen.

John Statham: Again, it depends on the market or sub-market within the city. There are many letting agents that are operating in the city centre of Leeds that are perfectly reputable and doing a good job, and landlords welcome them. What we have seen in Leeds in the last four or five years, in particular, is the growth of letting agents in the lower end of the market, who are taking their 10% or 15% from the landlord and doing nothing. The landlord then is surprised when the authority takes action against him or her for the condition of their property, saying, "Well, I’ve been paying a letting agent and the letting agent has taken the money, but doesn’t do anything for that money." It is a very difficult area, but there is significant growth in that lower market, where some of the less scrupulous letting agents can see an easy 10% or 15%.

Q561 Chair: Should we be insisting on licensing for letting agents?

Ruth Abbott: Yes. The difficulty is that they all have different roles as well. Some of them just find tenants and some of them manage properties. They seem to have a varying degree of involvement in the property and that is quite difficult for enforcing officers to understand as well. The landlord will say, "I’ve got a managing agent," but then you go to the managing agent and the managing agent says, "Well, actually, no, I just found the tenant." There has to be some sort of understanding of the responsibility between the two parties as well.

David Shepherd: I would suggest that some regulatory provision for letting agents is absolutely essential, particularly at the lower end of the market, as John said. What causes a problem in many cases of which I am aware is that the tenant often does not know who their landlord is; they only ever deal with a letting agent. As Ruth was saying earlier on, if there was some way of ensuring that people did know who their landlord was, you could establish the appropriate relationship earlier on, rather than through a letting agent, who may be interested only in the fee, not in delivering a service.

Q562 Simon Danczuk: John, I think I am right in saying that you said there are arguments for and against linking housing benefits to property condition. Why not come off the fence and tell us whether you think it is a good idea or not?

John Statham: The difficulty for me is that housing benefit is for the person; it is not for the property. It is there to support somebody who is on low income, either temporarily or for whatever reason. That is my concern about linking to the property. It is supposed to be for the individual because of their personal circumstances, not because they live in a property that does not have proper heating or something of that nature.

Q563 Simon Danczuk: You are not coming off the fence, then. Surely the argument is that the idea of raising benefit is to provide a decent house on behalf of that individual tenant you are talking about.

John Statham: What I am saying is that housing benefit is there to support the income of the individual, because they are unable to provide fully for themselves at that point in time. There are other mechanisms that deal with standards, which we talked about earlier.

Q564 Simon Danczuk: You do not think it should be linked.

John Statham: I do not think it should be linked. It is a personal benefit.

Simon Danczuk: I got a sense earlier that you felt it should be.

David Shepherd: There are legislative provisions in place that we have talked about already, but I do believe that the best way to work with landlords is to incentivise them. The one thing that they repeatedly tell me is that they want the ability to have the housing benefit paid direct to them, so they are in more control of the money. It is not surprising they say that, but I think if a landlord is doing everything they should be doing, the money should be going direct to them. I appreciate that there are welfare reform provisions that this cuts right across, but I do believe that if you want to address issues of poor standards within the private rented sector, you will have no better way of doing that than linking the payment of housing benefit direct to the property and putting the local authority in a role where they can then work with the landlord to keep their properties at a good standard.

Ruth Abbott: Our main concern about this is the fact that, from my understanding, housing benefit is going to be abolished in the next four years. If it is linked to standards then I am not sure how any new centrally-administered benefit is going to be linked to standards.

Q565 Simon Danczuk: What about in the here and now? Do you think it should be?

Ruth Abbott: In the here and now I think there is a case, like David said, for linking condition to housing benefit. I just worry about the fact that you start a whole new regime and how you then tie the two together, because standards are enforced at a local level and benefits, from my understanding, will be administered more centrally. How do you link the two together and how do you do that going forward?

Q566 Simon Danczuk: David, in the submission Bradford made, it showed that you had a concern about the broad-brush national approach to reducing LHA expenditure. What is the alternative to that?

David Shepherd: I guess the alternative is to pay the appropriate rate that keeps rent at an appropriate level where landlords can invest in their properties, get a reasonable rate of return and keep the properties in a good standard. What we find is that when you are dealing with percentiles-and Bradford’s LHA at the 30th percentile is very low-it does not offer a great incentive for people to invest in their properties. Clearly, when you compare the different levels across even the Leeds city region, you will see that there is a wide variation there. As John said in his earlier submission, there are multiple markets operating. What we find in Bradford is we tend to have more of the lower end of the market. I am always coming back to: what is the incentive for the landlord to invest? If they can charge a rent of only a certain level because the LHA level is fixed for them, there is not a great incentive for them to offer a better landlord service.

Q567 Simon Danczuk: Just briefly from each of you-starting with you, John-each local authority has raised concerns about changes in terms of welfare reform and how that will impact on the sector and people on lower incomes. What are your concerns, just broadly speaking, around the welfare reform?

John Statham: The key issue in the private rental sector is the poorer end of it, so, in other words, what is happening in the local housing allowance market. That is largely reliant on housing benefit, both for the customer, and for the landlord therefore to make their income in it. Any reduction in that level of income, whether that is because of non-payment or because of other welfare changes, is going to put extreme pressure on that end of the market. There is not the space in council housing, or housing association housing, should those landlords decide, "This is not worth the business anymore-I’m coming out of that." That worries me in terms of homelessness, and we have done fantastically well in Leeds with levels of homelessness over the last five to 10 years.

I would just be extremely concerned about what landlords do if that payment does not come through. If they evict or they come out of the market, the pressure is going to come back onto the local authority to provide the solution. The local housing allowance at the 30th percentile is not a massive rent; it is probably only just enough for some landlords. If pressure comes on non-payment, we could see a meltdown in that market, which could be disastrous for any city.

Q568 Simon Danczuk: Ruth, do you have any concerns around welfare reform?

Ruth Abbott: I will go back a step and just say about the impact of when they established the local housing allowance in Yorkshire in 2011. That was a big issue for us, because what happened in York was the fact that it took into account the rural area just outside of York. When they set the local housing allowance in York, it was a significant impact in the fact that 57% of the properties outside of York were okay with the local housing allowance, but only 8% of properties in York were able still to attract housing benefit tenants.

We were already starting from a really low point and any more changes to the housing benefit and this 30th percentile will squeeze tenants out of the market even more. With such strength in other markets-I go back to the shared student market or the young professional market-housing benefit tenants will be further squeezed in York. We would want York to be looked at in isolation, rather than being looked at across such a broad assessment, including the rural areas. It has caused us a major problem.

David Shepherd: The issue coming from welfare reform is one of pressure put into this particular tenure in this sector because there will be people moving from social housing where there are spare rooms and they do not want to pay the subsidy. Therefore, they will move over to this area. There is finite stock and there is even less of that stock that is of the appropriate standard. If we have to, at the same time, use another one of the provisions that has come in through the Localism Act to discharge our duty into the private rented sector, that also brings with it some uncertainty.

The guidance we have been issued by CLG, as local authorities, is not clear as to what standard we should expect of that accommodation. We can only enforce to the HHSRS standard, but that has not been clearly set out to us, and there is an issue there around the quality of accommodation that we are allocating to people through the private rented sector as a discharge of our duty.

Again, it comes back to the capacity of local authority areas. If we are then taking on that responsibility and there are many more properties that we need to keep on top of and ensure that they are of an appropriate standard, that might be a better use of public resource in the long term. You are then dealing with properties that are there and it is an issue of ensuring that landlords keep up with the standards, rather than constantly trying to build new social housing stock.

Q569 Mark Pawsey: That leads to my questions, which are about homelessness. David, you have just raised the issue of the housing health and safety rating system. Is there a danger that, with the requirement to place homeless families in the private rented sector, they will be housed through local authorities in inadequate accommodation?

David Shepherd: I can only speak for my own authority. There will not be, in Bradford, because-even for the bond scheme that we have had already-we ensure that we do inspect the properties ahead of them being let to people. There will be pressure brought to bear on local authorities, which is why I suggest that it might be helpful if the Government can be clear about which standards they expect to be put in place. If the Government just state that it is the HHSRS, we can plan accordingly and I can put the case for the appropriate resources to be allocated within my local authority to ensure that people do not-

Q570 Mark Pawsey: Sorry, can you explain how that standard differs from other standards?

David Shepherd: If a local authority is not told, effectively, what it must do, as I have said before-

Q571 Mark Pawsey: Why can you not decide for yourselves what to do?

David Shepherd: Well, we will do, and, as I have said, from a Bradford perspective-

Q572 Mark Pawsey: Why have you got to look at the Government all of the time for an answer?

David Shepherd: It is helpful if the Government can be clear about what standards they expect. Working from a local authority perspective, that is always helpful. When you are looking at a difficulty of less resource being available for local authorities, where should the local authority put that resource? If this is an area where people are put in danger, it would be helpful if local authorities and Government could be saying the same thing.

Q573 Mark Pawsey: Right. You are suggesting they are not, currently.

David Shepherd: I am just suggesting that there is a grey area.

Q574 Mark Pawsey: John, in Leeds, you have got a private sector letting scheme that enables homeless people to be accommodated in the private rented sector. How does that work?

John Statham: That is administered through our housing options service, which is similar to the one that Ruth talked about. All those properties would be inspected by our private sector regulation team before we let, so we ensure that they meet the housing health and safety rating system before we would let to people. What we try to do through the homeless service and prevention service is not just automatically to put people on the council waiting list. We have tried to prevent that happening because we have got 27,000 on it already and we try to see whether other solutions would fit certain people. It does not work for everybody, but for some people the private rented sector can be a solution, rather than just going on the waiting list for the council and waiting for ever, and in the interim time being in temporary accommodation or living on somebody’s sofa.

Q575 Mark Pawsey: You are talking also about a private sector leasing scheme to stimulate the supply of property suitable for dealing with homeless people. How is that going to work? Is it working now?

John Statham: We do not have one at the moment. We were approached by a couple of landlords in Leeds who have significant portfolios in the city, asking whether we would be prepared to enter into a leasing scheme with them. What they were saying is that, essentially-

Q576 Mark Pawsey: Would you lease properties from them?

John Statham: Yes, we would lease properties from them. What they were saying was-

Q577 Mark Pawsey: Would it be on long-term leases?

John Statham: We would want it on a long-term lease, yes. They were saying that they were keeping properties empty because they would rather leave them empty than house some of the people that they were being offered as a tenant.

Q578 Mark Pawsey: That is not what they told us this morning.

John Statham: Really? Well, perhaps you were not talking to those landlords then.

Mark Pawsey: They said they would rather have their properties occupied than left vacant.

John Statham: I can only report to you what those landlords who came and sat down with me, face to face, said. The idea would be that we would take them on a long lease and then there would be a management fee, which would represent the risk that was passing to the local authority for doing that. We think that that can work. The difficulty is the welfare change and removing direct payments, and whether that adds too much risk to the local authority to make it worth while. Certainly, our partner housing associations are quite interested in coming in with us on that scheme, but that financial risk element is a bit of a worry at the moment. We have a financial model and we are due to sit down before the end of June with landlord associations and talk it through.

David Shepherd: Can I just say that we do have a leasing scheme in operation at the moment? It was just a pilot phase that we ran and we did want to expand that through the Homes and Communities Agency in one of their recent bid rounds. With a lot of leasing schemes, the Homes and Communities Agency has moved away to more of an acquisition, repair and then get property into use.

Q579 Mark Pawsey: Just as a matter of interest, what lengths of leases are being looked at?

David Shepherd: Seven years is generally the term that we looked at. It does differ, because it depends how much you have to invest in the property. Generally, what you are dealing with is empty properties and some of them do require a significant amount of investment, so some might go beyond that term and that is when landlords-

Q580 Mark Pawsey: Presumably, the more investment, the longer the lease.

David Shepherd: Yes. That is when landlords get a little concerned. Also, their expectations about the rent levels and income that they are going to get back during the period of the lease are sometimes far higher than can be delivered. Clearly, the lease has to pay for all those improvements to the stock, so they get a reduced income level during that time.

Q581 Mark Pawsey: Ruth, you referred earlier to the local housing allowance and that only 8% of properties in York fell into the 30th percentile, but 57% outside. Presumably, then, you are discharging your homeless duty by placing people outside York. Is that a problem?

Ruth Abbott: I cannot give advice on that. We try and discharge our homelessness duty within York, because that is where families want to live; that is where they come from and that is where we want to make sure that they continue to live and be part of the community, because they have got family networks, etc, there. We therefore always try and discharge our duty within York itself.

Q582 John Pugh: The Residential Landlords Association says that Article 4 powers should be repealed and local authorities should "be more creative and work with landlords". Now, Ruth and John, you have both used Article 4 powers in your respective boroughs. Do you agree with that? What problems were you endeavouring to solve when you used Article 4?

John Statham: One of the things I have learned in dealing with private landlords is: never go near one without a planning officer. Perhaps we should have had one here today, I don’t know. The council introduced Article 4 because it wanted to have some way of managing the development of houses in multiple occupation. Landlords’ concerns about it are that if they change a house in multiple occupation into flats or back to a full house, if they then wanted to revert that back to a house in multiple occupation, they would have to get planning permission. They think that the council has put that in to prevent them from doing that. Therefore, it restricts their ability to manage their property and to earn income from it.

I am not sure that that is evidenced as yet. Certainly, in Leeds, we still have a significant number of planning applications in the pipeline for houses to be turned into houses in multiple occupation for the first time. There are still landlords who see that as a way of managing their property, of using their stock. There has been a proliferation of houses in multiple occupation in Leeds as a result of the student market. That is now changing and that is why the landlords are concerned that if they move-

Q583 John Pugh: You are broadly happy with Article 4, then.

John Statham: We are, yes.

Ruth Abbott: Article 4 has now been in place since last April. It is due to have a review this year. The planning team would say it is working well and is doing what it set out to do, in the fact that it is trying to control the numbers of HMOs. Again, it goes back to the HMOs close to the universities and the colleges, because there were some areas that did feel like they were being dominated by the growth in the shared student market. It is forcing landlords to look at new markets across the city, not just close to the universities and the colleges.

There have been a couple of issues: two have gone to appeal with the fact that one inspector said that they should have a more flexible approach to the criteria and the threshold; another inspector said, "No, we must keep with the data and the information that you’ve got." Again, going back to the data and the information that we hold, it is very much based on numbers from council tax data and from our own data pooled together on licensing. There is, potentially, some missing information. I would go back to this approach about knowing how to identify landlords and identify where they are so that information can get out, because there was a gap when we were setting up Article 4.

Q584 John Pugh: Used discriminatingly, are you in favour of Article 4 being maintained?

Ruth Abbott: I am in favour of Article 4.

Q585 John Pugh: David, are you considering it in Bradford?

David Shepherd: We have not made use of Article 4, presumably because it is not such a problem for us. We do not have the same pressures on markets as are being described in York; it is a different type of pressure there. I would not necessarily have a view for the Committee.

Chair: Thank you all very much for coming this afternoon and giving us some very interesting evidence.

<?oasys [pg6,cwe1] ?>Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Liam Burns, President, National Union of Students, Irfan Ahmed, Director, East Midlands Property Owners, and Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby, gave evidence.

Q586 Chair: Thank you all very much for coming. Just as we did on the first occasion, could you say who you are and the organisation you represent?

Liam Burns: My name is Liam Burns. I am President of the National Union of Students.

Irfan Ahmed: I am Irfan Ahmed, representing East Midlands Property Owners.

Dr Tyler: I am Richard Tyler. I am a co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby. We are not just reactive; we also take a proactive role. I have another hat, which is Chair of Headingley Homes, a community land trust interested in converting surplus student housing back into family accommodation.

Q587 Chair: The first issue to address is the issue of landlord licensing law registration. I think you are all basically in favour of some form of licensing or registration. Could you say how you think it ought to be done and what you think the benefits would be, just briefly?

Irfan Ahmed: I will certainly speak on the licensing one. It was interesting to hear the comments in the previous session on the other side of the fence. In Nottingham, the good landlords-those who have put their heads above the parapet and have gone through licensing-are completely opposed to it. The accreditation may well be a way forward for them. Licensing is seen as nothing more than a stealth tax on good landlords. There has been huge adverse reaction to it, including mandatory licensing. Nottingham is a city like most university cities. There is a high number of HMOs within the city. The difficulties there are duplicated and have been seen across the country as well.

Q588 Chair: You are drawing a distinction between registration and licensing.

Irfan Ahmed: Yes.

Chair: Could you simply say what you think the difference is and why there should be one and not the other?

Irfan Ahmed: I understand registration to be a register, and I think landlords would be happy with the register. Licensing, on the other hand, because of the high fees involved, is an issue.

Liam Burns: We have no opposition to licensing or registration. In fact, we are very much in favour of registration in particular. One of the issues that students face locally is awareness of where to seek recourse, being able to proactively see what type of agencies or landlords have indeed been accredited, if that is part of the registration process-and the two are linked. I do see a distinction as well in terms of licensing. Again, we have no opposition to additional or voluntary licensing; we think the local community should be able to act in setting standards and making sure that they are right in the area. We have different views as to where that licensing is then used to engineer the local community and impact on students living in the area.

Dr Tyler: Licensing has nothing to do with engineering, social or otherwise. The lobby is certainly in favour of licensing and certainly in favour of registration. The previous speakers gave plenty of reasons why registration is valuable. There are so many gaps in the information about the private rented sector and one way of filling those gaps is through what Julie Rugg in her report calls a "light touch" registration.1 This is a report that is very supportive of the private rented sector and that is one of her major recommendations, so we are very much in support of that.

Q589 Chair: Assuming that there would be more regulation of some sort, how can we make sure that what it does is to deal with the rogue landlords who we know exist, and does not put additional costs on the good landlords who are doing things right anyway?

Irfan Ahmed: That has been the eternal question, hasn’t it?

Chair: So we would like the answer to it.

Irfan Ahmed: How do you find these rogue landlords? It is very, very difficult because they are not going to put their heads above the parapet.

Dr Tyler: This is why you want registration-so that you have some sort of record across the board.

Irfan Ahmed: Yes, absolutely.

Dr Tyler: If you have the registration, the ones who volunteer for their licensing or accreditation we know are the responsible landlords.

Irfan Ahmed: One way, potentially, of finding this out-putting the data protection issue to one side, if you can do-is that private landlords will be mentioned on tenancy agreements, housing benefits and local housing allowance, and the housing benefits department will know who those landlords are.

Liam Burns: Certainly, student unions have used it in a similar way. Where local accreditation schemes do exist, they will take a choice not to advertise those that are not accredited and not with a local register. That does mean that you introduce a competitive advantage to increasing standards. It is a soft lever, but it is one that has been effective in some institutions.

Q590 Chair: Voluntary schemes have the problem that the ones you would really like to get hold of and deal with do not volunteer to be part of the scheme. We just privately talked to some landlords from Leeds this morning who are all members of the scheme and all very supportive of the accreditation scheme here. They all wanted to make that compulsory, because they said that the landlords they know who create problems do not join the scheme.

Liam Burns: I do not think there would be a problem making a policy. One of the challenges would be that it does not become just a piece of paper that carries an additional cost that eventually goes on to the tenant. There are some accreditation schemes that do not have any form of on-site visiting or any inspection other than a self-reflection of standards. That itself could just add cost over actually driving up standards. The soft lever is providing a kitemark system that is recognised. For us, the real challenge is making sure students recognise that kitemark system and what its purpose is. Where it is recognised, it becomes quite a powerful way of giving a distinct competitive advantage to good landlords.

Dr Tyler: Headingley Homes is a member of the Leeds Landlords Accreditation Scheme. We benefit from mostly having two side-by-side accreditation schemes in Leeds: there is one run by Unipol, which is specifically for student housing, and it overlaps with the one run by the council. Both these schemes offer a lot of benefits as well as the cost that goes with them. For the landlords who do participate in them, they do provide distinct advantages. In Leeds, there is no reason at all why a student, for instance, should end up in poor-quality accommodation, because there are these two complementary schemes that provide them with reassurances. The problem is extending it from middling markets-like the student market, you might say-into the lower end of the market that John was talking about earlier on. I was quite closely involved in the development of the accreditation scheme in Leeds and one of the problems has always been extending the scheme to that area of the PRS.

Q591 Simon Danczuk: Liam, you have said that the regulation of letting agents should be a priority for the Government. Could you tell me why you think it should be a priority, and what form should that regulation take, in terms of letting agents?

Liam Burns: We would certainly like to see letting agents move far more under the same legal status as estate agents. We do at least have this coming through our independent ombudsman process, but much stronger scrutiny and expectation of inspection of things like that comes with that status. That is why we think such a move would be incredibly beneficial.

Q592 Simon Danczuk: Who would it benefit?

Liam Burns: It would benefit the tenants themselves and confidence in the market around the area. Again, there is another status that it is linked to, but we can have a situation where recourse is sought. It can be almost seen as criminal in nature, where a landlord and an agency have acted in a way that, by any other means, would be seen as theft or fraud. It is very rarely treated as a criminal matter; it is treated as a civil matter. That can make it very hard for a student then to seek any form of recourse. We are suggesting here that what the Government do with that regulation is important.

Q593 Simon Danczuk: Irfan, are you suggesting that membership of a self-regulating body should become compulsory for letting agents?

Irfan Ahmed: As part of East Midlands Property Owners, we have four directors who are letting agents and they are horrified that any one of us could walk out of this room today and go and set up as a letting agent, without having gone through any training of any kind, let alone professional training. On a weekly basis, we come across questions coming in from agents who have set up in this manner and have no idea of the basic necessities of being a good landlord, let alone a professional letting agent.

Q594 Simon Danczuk: This self-regulation would involve letting agents being members of a regulatory body that they choose to join.

Irfan Ahmed: Of one of the associations that are already out there, yes.

Q595 Simon Danczuk: What would that then entail? What would the self-regulation involve? You mentioned training.

Irfan Ahmed: As Liam has indicated previously, it would involve training and accountability.

Q596 Simon Danczuk: Would that accountability include letting agents publishing, on their website, the fees that they charge tenants?

Irfan Ahmed: Absolutely. Many of the good ones should be doing that, or are doing that, in any case.

Q597 Simon Danczuk: Do all the letting agents-the directors you mentioned at the beginning-publish theirs on the websites?

Irfan Ahmed: Absolutely.

Liam Burns: There is a secondary opportunity to that as well. One of the things that Scotland has now done is to scrap the idea of additional fees that agencies can charge. Ultimately, we would like to see that legislated for, for obvious reasons, in that agencies can get away now with double-charging to the landlord and the tenant. Particularly for students, it means that instead of front-loading additional costs, it is spread out throughout the year, because we know fine and well that the money will be passed on to the rent, but at least at that point it becomes transparent.

As I say, I would like that legislated, but one of the things that we would take advantage of, in any self-regulating move by the sector, would be to say that one of the features of that should be that you ask your members to not have agent fees, but to have that within the actual cost of the rent.

Q598 Simon Danczuk: Irfan, why should letting agents be allowed to charge tenants fees when the letting agents’ client/customer is really the landlord?

Irfan Ahmed: There is an application process, I suppose. They should not be charging tenants fees.

Q599 Simon Danczuk: All the directors that you mentioned earlier do not charge tenants fees.

Irfan Ahmed: I would not agree with that comment one bit.

Simon Danczuk: They do charge tenants fees.

Irfan Ahmed: Yes, because they can do at the moment.

Q600 Simon Danczuk: As you suggest, why have you not been able to convince them that they should just charge their customer-the landlord?

Irfan Ahmed: I am sure that the landlord would be quite opposed to increased fees.

Q601 Simon Danczuk: It is only an administrative cost. You are saying that the cost to the letting agent is in having to administer the application form from the tenant, which might be an hour’s work, or something like that.

Irfan Ahmed: Yes.

Simon Danczuk: I do not know what that would cost-£30 or £40.

Irfan Ahmed: There are credit referencing checks as well; they go through that process. It is £30 or £35, which is an up-front fee they say they are paying. I understand they will charge £100, £150 or somewhere in that region-they are some of the lowest fees that I have picked up on. I do know some that are considerably higher.

Q602 Simon Danczuk: Is it your view that tenants should not be charged?

Irfan Ahmed: Yes, it is.

Q603 Simon Danczuk: It should all go to the landlord.

Irfan Ahmed: Yes.

Q604 Mark Pawsey: Can I ask a question about houses in multiple occupation? Are there particular safety or housing condition issues for houses in multiple occupation? Perhaps I can start off with Liam, because students, by definition, do not live in a single-person house; in many cases, they do live in houses in multiple occupation, where there are several people in one large house. What are the special characteristics of those properties?

Liam Burns: I have never quite understood why the type of person to the numbers you have is dependent on this, but it would be things like fire doors being in place, appropriate glazing, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. These would all be expected in that. One of the really important things to remember with HMO legislation is that it came about after quite tragic circumstances in which death was caused by poor health and safety standards within properties.

Q605 Mark Pawsey: Is there a case for all those things you have just mentioned being in the general housing stock? What is so special about HMOs?

Liam Burns: I do not believe there is.

Q606 Mark Pawsey: Would you like to see all that extended to the general housing stock?

Liam Burns: I am speaking for my constituents, who are students. I am very glad that that legislation is in place for the reasons I have outlined. If I was advocating more generally to society, I am not sure why five people in a flat who are unrelated are any more deserving of fire doors than those who are related.

Irfan Ahmed: I agree entirely, again. It is going to raise standards within the property.

Dr Tyler: Houses in multiple occupation are a very distinctive form of accommodation. They are as different from a family dwelling house as a hotel is, say, or a residential institution-those are four different categories within Use Class C in the Use Classes Order. First of all, as the name says, it is a multiple household; you have not got a single household with a single co-ordinating set of relationships among them. You have got quite discrete households. In some cases, these may be single individuals, couples or whatever. You have much higher levels of occupancy within houses in multiple occupation than you do in normal family houses. It is equivalent to a hotel in full season.

Nearly always-not entirely-the occupants of houses in multiple occupation are young people who have moved away from home for the first time; they are, if you like, novice householders. You do not have a hierarchy for passing on information, and the occupants of houses in multiple occupation turn over at a very high rate.

Q607 Mark Pawsey: Are you agreeing with Liam and Irfan that these properties should have a higher standard of protection against fire and all these kinds of things than houses occupied by families?

Dr Tyler: I am not saying they should have a higher standard, but there should be mechanisms to make sure that the standards are maintained, because the people in them are more vulnerable to accidents and so on.

Q608 Mark Pawsey: The legislation currently distinguishes between houses in multiple occupation and those that are not. The evidence from all three witnesses is that you do not want to see that distinction applying.

Liam Burns: I do not see why. Dr Tyler’s point is probably more about transience. It is fair that you would want additional scrutiny where there is not consistent oversight. It is a massive generalisation to say that that would be as transient as what a student population might or might not look like, but I do agree it is more transient. I get why it is in place.

Q609 Mark Pawsey: Why should these properties be of a higher standard in terms of fire risk and safety than family accommodation?

Liam Burns: In terms of final outcome, of course, they should not be; they should all be equally as high. The question is whether you need additional resources to look into whether they are being kept to that standard, which is a fair point.

Dr Tyler: Given the social contract we have, society at large has an obligation to look after people in houses in multiple occupation, in the same way as hotel owners or residential institutions have obligations laid on them to look after the people they are responsible for.

Q610 Chair: I got involved in this when the Housing Act was the Housing Bill. Dr Tyler, some argue that there are houses in multiple occupation that are not covered by the mandatory licensing scheme. Should it be extended to all houses in multiple occupation? I think of two-storey properties, which can still have a lot of people in them.

Dr Tyler: When the Housing Bill was going through the Commons, we and a lot of other organisations argued that the scope of mandatory licensing should be wider than it ended up being. At the moment, it is a house with at least three storeys and at least five occupants. Our view was that it should be three storeys or five or more occupants. By putting those two criteria together you narrow the scope a good deal. Our recommendation was to expand that. We have lobbied our own council for additional licensing to cover HMOs in general. I still would argue in favour of that, though I understand why Leeds City Council has adopted a different sort of strategy. The council wants to target the most vulnerable sectors of the market. The size of an HMO does have a bearing on the health and safety within it, but the very qualities of an HMO that I have just been talking about mean that that sort of accommodation is more vulnerable than other forms of accommodation.

Q611 John Pugh: Liam, on the high concentration of students, residents have told us of antisocial behaviour: damage to cars; throwing of fireworks; overturning of bins; drunkenness; public nudity; and vomiting. I am not accusing you of all of these-or any of them-but does the NUS offer any rational advice to students on their duties or experiences in being, to use Dr Tyler’s expression, novice householders? Has the student community given any advice to move towards from some model of student occupation other than that found in The Young Ones and other such programmes?

Liam Burns: I will answer your question and then, if it is okay, challenge the premise of the question. The student union is incredibly proactive in what it can do to make sure that students are safe and can access housing. That comes along with community cohesion and gives as much enabling to the huge and positive impacts students have in local communities. Right from the start, we did things such as hold accommodation fairs where only accredited registered landlords are allowed to come along. Many do regular surveys. In Brighton it is fairly regular. I know that Essex does surveys of standards, which is quite common, and lobbies local areas to increase standards.

There are many community action groups. In Leeds, there is one called Leave Leeds Tidy, which is about making sure that waste on exiting a flat is dealt with properly. There has been a lot of work in Leeds to get people to volunteer in the local community and things like that. That is the proactive nature of it.

They are starting to deal with the overtly negative behaviour. If there is a perception of, say, noise pollution, many students unions will run campaigns on that in particular, ultimately leading to the disciplining of their members if they are found to be acting in an antisocial way. A lot of activity goes on, and we are always interested in doing more on that.

Q612 John Pugh: But when you are fire-fighting, or advising students, is it more critical-Dr Tyler may want to come in on this-where there is a very high concentration of student population, for example as in Headingley and the like?

Liam Burns: This is where I challenge the premise. I have yet to see evidence of increased antisocial behaviour in any area across the country. When I say "evidence", as Obama said in the US election said, I will allow people to hold their own opinion; I will not allow them to hold their own facts. One of the problems with HMOs and not compulsory registration around that is that nobody knows how many HMOs are out there; hence, it is not factual to say there is a causal link between antisocial behaviour and HMOs.

The other part of that is: many HMOs are simply not just about students. All sorts of other young professionals are living in these properties, so the causal link between students and HMOs alone is something to be challenged. Finally, I do not expect for a minute a local resident not to point out and pursue antisocial behaviour. Society has bad apples as much as the student movement. Where I do get somewhat frustrated is that we have hard evidence of tens of millions of pounds that students generate by raising and giving in voluntary activity, let alone the economic and fiscal impact students have on an area. We need to take that in the whole in whatever conclusions your inquiry may lead to. That is why we are up for dealing with the impact of a high number of students in an area. We want to do it in a holistic way that is not about driving out students, but making sure there is a cohesive society at the end of the day.

Dr Tyler: I probably agree with most of what Liam has just said. There is no direct link between students and antisocial behaviour as such; there is no direct link between HMOs and antisocial behaviour as such. The problems arise when you have high concentrations of HMOs. I know very well that the local union in Leeds and student unions around the country and the NUS do advocate, as the title of one of their publications goes, living and working together.2 This came out a couple of years ago, and my organisation had a great deal of input into this. It is in all our interests to try to live and work together.

I do not gainsay all the voluntary work that students do, but that does not necessarily address the problems that arise and are, if you like, the unintended consequences of education, education, education. We had a huge expansion of higher education in the 1990s. No thought whatsoever was given to how students who would be taking up this education would be accommodated and so the market, represented by Irfan among many others, enthusiastically jumped into the gap and started buying up not just individual properties but whole streets that lay in the shadow, if you like, of the ivory tower.

Just round the corner from where I live is Chestnut Avenue, which had a reputation some years ago in the tabloids as the most burgled street in Britain. If you walk down it now, virtually every other house has grilles on the doors and windows. These are all student houses. There are 54 houses in the street and 52 are student houses. They are very vulnerable to burglary. With the best will in the world, students are novice householders; they have very poor ideas about the security of their properties. It is an absolutely filthy street. There are bins in the road all the time. The whole student area is filthy. If you go through some of the more deprived areas of Leeds, these are cleaner than the student area in Headingley, which is absolutely filthy.

Q613 John Pugh: I think you identify what we see as the problem. You call for measures to discourage the use of domestic properties as second homes. Is that primarily aimed at students and their parents, or MPs?

Dr Tyler: I’m sorry.

John Pugh: You call for measures in your submission to discourage or prevent the use of domestic property as a second home. I think you are advocating that as a solution to the problem you have just outlined. Is that primarily about students?

Dr Tyler: It is largely about students. On the whole, it is the student market that has generated high concentrations. This is what I wanted to say. It is not the HMOs and students as such; it is the fact that a street like Chestnut Avenue is almost entirely occupied by students. There are 100 streets in Headingley where student occupants outnumber residents. It means that in those streets you have a continuous turnover of population. It is a very young and enthusiastic population, but that enthusiasm spills over into all sorts of activities. It is a seasonal population. One of the most depressing aspects of an area dominated by student housing is that, if you go down Chestnut Avenue during the Christmas vacation, unlike any normal street where there are little lights twinkling in all the windows, with people are coming and going and a general festive atmosphere about the place, it is in complete and utter darkness. There cannot be many things more depressing in the middle of winter than going down a street that is almost entirely deserted. On the one hand, you have a collapse of the networks that sustain a local community, and, on the other hand, you have low levels of behaviour that impact on the appearance of the area. Last year, the NUS brought out a report on lad culture,3 which was mostly about activities within the student body, but the lad culture identified in that report impacts on the people who live next door to students.

Q614 John Pugh: Can we be clear about this? In the evidence you are presenting you are basically arguing that the problem is occupation of property by students, not necessarily students or families buying up property. The main thrust of your objection is density of student population.

Dr Tyler: Yes, and this is supported by national policy. The National Planning Policy Framework sets as one of the objectives of local authorities mixed sustainable communities. A neighbourhood that is occupied predominantly by a population that is very narrow in age range, short term and seasonal loses all the networks on which a local community is based.

Q615 John Pugh: Can I just ask Irfan and Liam briefly to comment on that problem, or the solution?

Liam Burns: The important thing to remember in this debate is that property is being conflated with people. HMOs are a type of property. Lots of the examples used, which I also challenge, have been cases involving people and their behaviour. I get frustrated; we are trying to do policy-based evidence. The street referred to earlier has not got the highest crime rate at all. That was disproven subsequent to the HMO lobby making that assertion. There is no evidence that HMOs in and of themselves will create higher antisocial behaviour, so as much as anecdotally I am sure people would jump to that conclusion, that certainly is not a basis to do policy development. Student accommodation is not a magnet for crime and criminality, because by the nature of student property, those people are in it more often. This is interesting, because we are entering a time when destudentification will be more of an economic and social issue than studentification. As to the argument about deserting a community during holiday periods, I have some sympathy for that in terms of aesthetics, but that does not stack up. The fact that the local economy thrives in an area and all this vibrancy and volunteering happens when students are there is not a reason to try to stop them being there in the first place.

I want to talk a little about what you do about this issue. The one that has been used is Article 4, which is about dispersal of students. It is not across the piece. I think that a review nationwide is needed at some point. There are places in Leeds where houses are lying empty because they have taken on Article 4 direction, but they are not in areas where families want to move to. You have a double-whammy. Students are being dispersed, there is a reduction in choice for students driving up costs in the market and you are not delivering what you want to do.

A sensible way of dealing with this issue of community cohesion, in which we all have a common interest, is that, if you want additional licensing to deal with that issue, there are things like additional waste collections available. Remember, the individual will produce their amount of waste. If you want to disperse the concentration to deal with it in terms of community services, fine, but logically I do not see why you would want to disperse that. Deal with that through local community action and the community coming together to talk about what can be done. Don’t take what is about safety legislation and protecting rights and try to conflate it with the aesthetics of whether or not there are tree lights on at Christmas. They are two separate problems to be dealt with, and I do not think we should conflate the two issues.

Dr Tyler: There is a lot of confusion there between licensing and Article 4 direction. This is a common misunderstanding in the submissions of both of my colleagues. Article 4 direction is not about restriction, dispersal or whatever. Article 4 direction on its own simply requires planning permission for the conversion of a family house into a house in multiple occupation. All that does is put that form of housing development on a level footing with every other form of housing development. If you are going to make a significant change in the use of property, normally you need planning permission. That is all Article 4 direction does. Article 4 per se neither encourages nor discourages; it does not do anything at all about HMOs. What does impact on HMOs is the policy that you need to have in place to implement an Article 4 direction. Councils around the country are adopting policies to meet the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework to create balanced and sustainable communities. A neighbourhood that is entirely dominated by a young, seasonal and transient population is not a mixed, balanced and sustainable community. The issue of sustainability is beginning to emerge in Leeds because of de-studentification, as Liam mentioned, because student bodies move from one area to another.

Q616 Mark Pawsey: We have started quite an interesting discussion on the impact of intensification of student areas within cities. In Nottingham, the council has introduced an Article 4 direction. Can you tell us what has happened? What has been the experience there? Are there lots of Chestnut avenues in Nottingham?

Irfan Ahmed: There is absolutely huge stagnation in Nottingham now. It is a chicken and egg. If you go to buy a property and then apply for planning permission-

Q617 Mark Pawsey: Is this an investor?

Irfan Ahmed: An investor. Do they go for Article 4 first and wait?

Q618 Mark Pawsey: Presumably they chat to the planning committee.

Irfan Ahmed: It is not rubber-stamped; it never is. Do you wait?

Q619 Mark Pawsey: So the investor does not invest and Dr Tyler gets his way, which is that there are fewer houses converted to HMOs occupied by students in that particular area. Is that what is happening?

Irfan Ahmed: Yes.

Q620 Mark Pawsey: So you are happy with it all, Dr Tyler. It is a great idea.

Dr Tyler: That was the whole purpose of our campaign right from the beginning.

Q621 Mark Pawsey: You would love it if every city with a big student population had swathes of Article 4 directions.

Dr Tyler: Yes. What every student town has now, pretty well without exception-

Irfan Ahmed: But this is not just about students in cities like Nottingham; it is a blanket. Put the idea of the investor to one side and look at two houses: this is a property you are allowed to let; in this one Mr and Mrs X want to sell it. They are two identical properties. It may be in a student area; it may be another high concentration HMO area. No Article 4 planning permission is being granted on that property. The owners of that property are restricted. The valuations on those properties are now up to 50% less than for the property that has the HMO.

Q622 Mark Pawsey: Dr Tyler, how do you feel about doing hard-working families out of getting full value when they come to sell their properties?

Dr Tyler: The situation Irfan is talking about is entirely the result of the fact that the market has gone ludicrously wild in areas like Lenton in Nottingham. The only reason why property is not selling is that there has been such intensive development, cultivation and mining of the area by the property industry, turning into houses in multiple occupation. This is one of the problems of using Article 4 directions. There is absolutely no reason why a local authority in its policies cannot include the capability for exceptions. Southampton has done that. We have advocated that in Leeds. If a street is like Chestnut Avenue and the last remaining resident wants to move out, we would say, "Okay, no family will want to move in here." The only way you can dispose of the property is to sell it to a landlord, so we would make an exception.

Q623 Mark Pawsey: How does the local authority know when to make these exceptions? Are you going to tell them, or is it for the NUS or a developer to tell them?

Dr Tyler: This where a systematic licensing scheme would be helpful, but it is not difficult to identify a street in Leeds from council tax returns or the electoral register. This is how I am able to tell you that 52 out of 54 houses are occupied by students.

Q624 Mark Pawsey: Do you have in your mind a percentage of properties in the street in multiple occupation that is acceptable and a percentage that is not? What is the tipping point?

Dr Tyler: Many local authorities have agreed that there is a threshold and if you go beyond that threshold it starts collapsing. It varies. Manchester, Portsmouth, Canterbury, Leamington-a whole range of authorities-have adopted what we would recommend, which is a 10% threshold. HMOs have double the occupancy of a normal household, so that roughly equates to 20% of the population of that street. If 20% of the population is transient, turning over, seasonal and so on, the rest of the street can cope with that. Once you start moving beyond that, you start precipitating flight from the street. Before long, the dominoes are collapsing and you have a Chestnut Avenue on your hands. If you want to keep mixed and sustainable communities, you have to manage the properties in those communities, and that is what the change of Use Classes Order that we lobbied for in the first place was about. The coalition Government made change of use permitted development, so Article 4 directions have come in. The purpose of Article 4 directions is that local authorities can fulfil their planning objective of sustainable communities. It applies just as much to nonstudent HMOs as to student HMOs. The student issue happens to come up because that is by far the biggest market for HMOs and the biggest driver for the concentrations we get, because universities are very specific places and inevitably people want to live around them. The principle applies to all forms of HMOs.

Liam Burns: The phrase "balanced, sustainable communities" has been thrown around a lot. It is used in a very problematic way. Limiting the supply of housing where a particular group or society can live without action to provide supply somewhere else is not building a mixed and balanced society. We do not go into places like Chelsea and ask middle-class families to move out so we can move in students. I think that starts to expose the underlying motivation. I would again challenge the idea that Article 4 and licensing are completely separate things. It is not true. Dr Tyler has just confirmed that his objective is to have fewer students in a particular area.

The number of Article 4 directions passed4 in Leeds is tiny; not many have been granted, because that is about restricting supply. You are also about to have a situation where affordable shared occupancy moves from 25 to 35 under the benefits system. You are about to have a decade of people who are also not going to be able to apply for benefits on the basis of single occupancy but shared occupancy. They are going to look at the HMO market to be able to do that. It sounds very nice to say that we want balanced communities as well, but this is not a system that is building a balanced community; it is about taking a particular part of society and displacing it. That is very different.

Dr Tyler: That is simply not the case.

Q625 Chair: We have to move on from there. Clearly we have a difference of view, and you have all put your arguments very effectively, if somewhat differently.

May I go on to rent control? Liam Burns, you have said to us that you think there should be some form of rent control. Other people at different hearings have said to us that if you control rent, you will restrict the amount of investment that goes into the private rented sector, which is investment we would all like to encourage to get more properties built, so there is a potential conflict there.

Liam Burns: You will notice that we worded it very carefully. We think we should investigate rent control.

Q626 Chair: That sounds like a politician’s recommendation.

Liam Burns: I am among friends here. The reason for that is complex. I could point to rent control in other countries with different housing markets, so people would challenge that. The reason we are favourable to rent control is the following. You have to say where you want rent control to apply, because for students in particular, there are different areas you can focus on. Over the past 10 years, the rent for purpose-built student accommodation has doubled. It is completely disconnected from inflation or cost of provision. It has sky-rocketed. That means that on average for purpose-built private accommodation, your annual student loan and grant, if you get the maximum amount, would not cover it. London has hit 10k as the average. There is an implication for the Treasury here. You supply students with cash in the form of loans and grants as a proportion. Controlling rent would mean that you are doing a service to other parts of government in terms of what student financial support needs to be given, because increasingly students are not able to afford to go to university as a result of that.

As for the rest of the private rented sector, we have heard already how many people are applying either for things like HMOs, or to be in the private rented sector. There is a lot of demand there. I do not think anyone would argue there is a lot of profit there. All we are saying is that we think it is about time we looked at what benefits there could be for having a bit more regulation on how prices are allowed to escalate.

Q627 Chair: In terms of the purpose-built market for students that you refer to, surely in order to make that happen you need private sector investment, which is looking for a return. If it suddenly loses its return, or it is threatened that in future it might lose its return, it will not get funds; it is not going to happen.

Liam Burns: It is about whether it is connected to the supply and demand element. A doubling in the past 10 years seems to me somewhat disconnected.

Q628 Chair: Is that building overall? It is a doubling on some schemes but not overall, is it?

Liam Burns: Rent has doubled.

Irfan Ahmed: The utopia for the HMO group was these purpose-built apartments that came along that would take students out of those areas and put them in those blocks. As Liam has rightly said, the rent for those places is phenomenal-£100 or £150 a week. Who comes and fills the void? The private rented sector.

Q629 Chair: Some of these properties have been built in dealing with the universities; sometimes a university has even given the land for them to be built on. Hasn’t the university got some responsibility? Do they use it properly?

Liam Burns: There are different forms of partnerships. One of the most problematic areas is private providers that have no form of nomination agreement with an institution whereby they agree that x number of students will come to their property. Instead, they go directly to students. That is where we see the greatest inflation of prices. Because there is no link to any of the institutions’ pastoral services, a lot more dodgy dealings can occur. We often ask institutions to try to keep that provision inhouse, because we believe there will be a better outcome for the tenant. I am not arguing against private accommodation per se, because it might play an integral role in some parts of the country. You would not be able just to withdraw it. None the less, if you were to think about what rent control could look like in a more holistic sense, we know that students paying between £500 and £600 a month are four times more likely to turn to highrisk lenders such as Wonga. There are causal links between the wellbeing of the individual and the rent that is being charged.

Q630 Chair: If you have got some detailed information about rising levels of rent, perhaps you could pass it on to us.

Liam Burns: Of course.

Q631 Chair: You referred in your evidence to being in support of rents being determined by the market. You have also made some reference to rents being linked to average earnings. Isn’t that a conflict?

Irfan Ahmed: I will have to stand away from that comment. That was made by a colleague, so I cannot answer that. Perhaps I could pass on some further information, but unfortunately I cannot comment on that.

Q632 Chair: You are basically supportive of the market determining rents.

Irfan Ahmed: Yes, absolutely.

Dr Tyler: One interesting thing is that a short while ago there was a report on a group of students in Birmingham who developed cooperative housing. I know that a few years ago the NUS mounted quite a large project on cooperative housing for students. Student housing coops are a big issue in the Americas, North America, Canada, and Australia too. You could say that to some degree the whole issue is in students’ hands themselves. That is quite a substantial body of people. If anybody could make a go of cooperative housing, it ought to be students. Another thing, which is going to annoy Liam, is that the student housing market is quite an artificial creation anyway. In this country, about 80% of students go away to university, but we are unique in this in the world. Liam just mentioned the costs of university education as a deterrent to promoting inclusivity, but we could adopt a higher education culture much more like that in the rest of the world. Only a third of American students go to university. For heaven’s sake, we have enough universities in this country so that practically everybody, unless you happen to live in quite a remote area, is able to commute to university. Obviously, there will be exceptions to that.

Q633 Chair: I can understand that view, but our job in this inquiry is to look at the private rented sector and how it operates, rather than to try to reform higher education policy, which probably is a bit beyond our scope and remit. I take the point; the point has been made already.

Dr Tyler: The culture of higher education does have a huge impact on the private rented sector. There was another report by Julie Rugg ten or so years ago on the nature and impact of student demand on housing markets as a whole.5 She points out the impact that student demand has on other markets, and she also recommended-it is one of our recommendations that you can follow up-that local higher education institutions should have housing policies for their students to try to ensure that the impact they make as an institution is not detrimental on the supply in the town in which they are located.

Liam Burns: I can only presume that this Committee is not going to make a recommendation that anyone should stay in their local area to pursue higher education. I am just going to leave that alone and leave the inaccuracy to the last statement. The "coop" point Dr Tyler made is an interesting one. Birmingham now has a very small-scale student cooperative. A few years ago, in Manchester, we did not get a project off the ground, but there are lots of different areas where we have looked at student cooperatives. Equally, I would point out that those cooperatives often look like distinct geographical areas being occupied solely by students. None the less, they have worked in different places to bring down rent, and it is an area in which we are interested, but we have not made any headway.

Chair: There is some semblance of agreement on the final point. Thank you all very much for coming. It was a very lively session.

[1] J Rugg, the Private Rented Sector, 2008.

[2] NUS, Living Together, Working Together , 2010.

[3] NUS, That’s What She Said , 2012.

[4] Correction by witness: Planning permission applications.

[5] J. Rugg, The Nature & Impact of Student Demand on Housing Markets , 2000.

Prepared 16th July 2013