Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Andrew Grant

I respond to the invitation for submissions on the inquiry into the private rented housing sector.

1.I have been renting out property to private tenants since 1972 and therefore have forty years experience as a landlord. I have become increasingly concerned in the last few years by the ever growing bureaucratic burden on landlords. Over the years I have nearly always enjoyed a good relationship with my tenants and have tried to meet all reasonable needs as soon as possible. Now I feel I am being ever more pressurised by regulations to the point that I no longer know if I comply with all legal requirements. I have never used an agent and am concerned that the complexities are now becoming so great I may be forced to do so. Tenant Information Packs, which I understand are proposed for Scotland, would be a bureaucratic nightmare with marginal benefit and would be likely to increase rents to compensate.

2.As far as I know, no tenant of mine has ever been unfairly treated, while I have on a number of occasions had to suffer losses from damage caused by tenants or from a failure to pay the rent due. I feel the current system favours tenants at the expense of landlords and would appeal for a halt to new restrictive legislation. What is needed is a rationalisation of the regulations already in place so that these can be readily understood by a non professional.

3.Tenants who rent substandard property have only themselves to blame. Legislation should not be needed to set minimum standards, except where health and safety are concerned. Gas and electrical testing and fire safety requirements are reasonable to expect. However, in my view, HMO licensing requirements go well beyond what is needed for a safe and secure letting, especially for small units. I appeal for this legislation to be removed as a requirement for all properties that have six or fewer tenants, either sharing one property with its own street entrance, or where they are divided between two properties that share a common street entrance.

4.There is an increasing need for accommodation for tenants on housing benefit. My experience of these tenants has been so negative that I would only let to a tenant on benefits in exceptional circumstances. If the government wants private landlords to help these tenants, better protection must be provided for landlords. As rent is not paid directly to the landlord, my experience has shown it is far too easy for the tenant to take the money and not pay. Also, Councils withdraw housing benefit from tenants who break their rules, but the tenant neither leaves nor pays the rent so it is the landlord that suffers. When rent is not paid the procedures to evict the tenant are both long and costly. At the same time I have found that benefits tenants take the least care of the property and I have been left with repair bills running into thousands of pounds that are unrecoverable.

5.The level of rent payable is determined by market circumstances. If a landlord asks too much, tenants will and should go elsewhere. Regulation is not needed.

6.I always provide my tenants with a Shorthold Tenancy Agreement which includes provision for my tenant to remain for up to five years. Clauses explain rent review procedures. Beyond the first six months, my tenant has to give me only one months notice for departure while, should I wish to do so, I would need to give my tenant two months notice. This works well and I wonder why all rental agreements are not written this way, except that agents might see this as a lost opportunity to charge a repeat fee.

7.My experience of the Deposit Protection Scheme has been that it disadvantages tenants. In the past I have always been able to return my tenant’s deposit (or an agreed portion) on the day of departure. Now tenants, especially those not internet connected, have to wait sometimes several weeks to get their money back.

January 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013