Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Lucking Estates Ltd

For the consideration of the PRS review Committee

Submitted by Terry Lucking. MD of Lucking Estates Ltd. The leading franchise owner of Belvoir Lettings. BFA Franchisee of the year 2007.

Key facts about Terry Lucking:

13 years trading in the PRS as an agent in Peterborough and Cambridge.

Managing just over 1000 properties and finding tenants for 400 landlords.

Has 17 staff all Guild of Lettings and Management or ARLA trained and qualified.

ARLA Licensed offices.

Members of Safe Agent, NALS and The Property Ombudsman.

Terry Lucking.

Sits on various council housing steering groups representing the PRS (most recently housing strategy 2011–2014—next expected to be consultation over selective licensing and article 4 directions).

Manages accreditation of landlords and property for University Centre Peterborough.

Chair of the Peterborough National Landlord Association branch.

Q1: Quality of private rented housing, and steps that can be taken to ensure that all housing in the sector is of an acceptable standard

A: Voluntary accreditation membership schemes run by local councils and membership bodies looks to be honourable but futile. It does not deal with the landlords and agents who cause the issues. In my opinion there is already sufficient statutory legislation in place. What is needed is more EHO’s on the street and maybe a mandatory licence for all rental properties. Perhaps a scheme whereby agents can undergo training and qualification to licence landlords properties and private self managed landlords pay their local council for licensing on a 5 yearly basis and make it clear to all renters that they should demand to see the licence and check it against a national government controlled register.

After all we pay for MOT’s for car—why not for property?

Q2: Levels of rent within the private rented sector—including the possibility of rent control and the interaction between housing benefit and rents

A: A formal process that allows tenants to challenge the rent exists. The greatest amount of rent exploiting in the areas I trade goes hand in hand with unlawful letting. Letting to those who have bad credit ratings; those who shouldn’t be in the UK or those being exploited by gang masters and other variations of. I do not see an easy fix to this issue as the renters are as much of an issue as are the landlords.

Q3: Regulation of landlords, and steps that can be taken to deal with rogue landlords

A: Answer as Q1. Voluntary accreditation membership schemes run by local councils and membership bodies looks to be honourable but futile. It does not deal with the landlords and agents who cause the issues. In my opinion there is already sufficient statutory legislation in place. What is needed is more EHO’s on the street and maybe a mandatory licence for all rental properties. Perhaps a scheme whereby agents can undergo training and qualification to licence landlords properties and private self managed landlords pay their local council for licensing on a 5 yearly basis and make it clear to all renters that they should demand to see the licence and check it against a national government controlled register. We should consider having automatic fines in place for specific breaches in the same way as we have for parking and speeding offences. Keep a national log of anyone with property offences and prevent the transfer of property until the penalty has passed/spent.

Q4: The regulation of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), including the operation of discretionary licensing schemes imposed by a local authority for a category of HMO in its area

A: As manager of many HMO’s (over 100 properties) including small shared single tenancy and large multi room let tenancies with 24 rooms I believe I can talk having good experience with two councils; Peterborough and Cambs City. I feel the current legislation is operating well in particular with local councils being able to review their needs and act accordingly. I am working with officers in Peterborough (PCC) with regards to selective licensing. PCC accepted a proposal I made for accreditation of landlords to help with implementation of selective licensing should the decision be made to implement it. Based on my experience this is an area that should be left unchanged for the medium term to allow the various schemes to take effect.

Q5: Tenancy agreements and length and security of tenure

A: Landlords are already able to provide longer agreements if requested. Most of the employed applications we receive for AST want tenancies ranging between six to 12 months. Many of the applications we receive from tenants in receipt of LHA would prefer longer term tenancies. We would advise landlords against offering longer term tenancies to anyone in receipt of LHA owing to the length of time it takes to gain vacant possession. Government needs a rethink over its decision to pay LHA direct to the claimant if it wants to motivate responsible private landlords into the LHA market place. The legal process for eviction for rent arrears and serious social issues should be shortened.

Q6: How local authorities are discharging their homelessness duty by being able to place homeless households in private sector housing

A: Having spent time with a homelessness officer from Peterborough CC earlier today trying to gain an understanding how the changes in the Welfare Reform Act is going to effect how PCC deal with the matter. To be honest my concerns that relate to payment of rent under the current LHA and future Universal Credit plus support dealing with challenging tenants have been dealt with. Clearly credit unions will become an important tool for landlords and agents to help ensure the tenants rent is paid on time.

Summary

I hope this report is useful and contributes to the review. I would be pleased to contribute further should the opportunity arise.

January 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013