There is no scandal on private rent levels, MPs told
Despite the hype of many rental surveys, official statistics have shown that private rents nationally are growing below inflation – and more slowly than social rents.
The Valuation Office Agency data, based on 500,000 measurements and the largest of its kind to look at rents nationally, said rents have grown 2.8% nationally over the last year, undershooting RPI inflation, although comparable with CPI. In the social housing sector, rents are allowed to grow by RPI pus 0.5% per annum.
The data forms part of the Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into the private rented sector, which met yesterday.
The British Property Federation said in evidence to the inquiry that the VOA figures show no need for rent controls, which it said would harm investment in the private rented sector at a time when more, not fewer, homes are needed.
However, the BPF said that the introduction of licensing for letting agents and a sensible system of landlord registration could help to tackle bad practice in the sector.
Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the BPF, said: “Debate on the private rented sector is too often dominated by case study, narrow evidence and prejudice, rather than the full picture, and there is real danger that on the back of that we get poor policy-making.
“Policies that hurt investment in the private rented sector will not help people needing a home and just exacerbate the nation’s housing crisis. We hope the select committee will remember that rents reflect local housing markets and come out strongly in rejecting rent controls.
“The official statistics show that there is no scandal on rents in England.”
Fletcher said that licensing of landlords and agents should be considered by the committee, but added that it must be properly enforced.
He said: “We strongly support efforts to tackle bad practice in our sector, and continue to support many of the recommendations made in the last major review (Rugg Review) of the sector, including its suggested approach to regulating the sector through registration.
“There is probably more legislation on housing on the statute book than any other topic, but it is typically badly promoted and enforced because it is under-resourced.
“The taxpayer spends less than 3p per annum informing households of their rights and responsibilities in the private rented sector – but has spent more than £4 per household informing them about the TV digital switchover. That sadly says something about the nation’s priorities.
“There has been a national register of landlords and agents in Scotland for some time, and compliance with it is poor, with the worst landlords continuing to be let off scot-free. We remain very willing to work with any party seeking to tackle bad practice, but only on suggestions that will be properly promoted and effectively enforced.”