Housing
Iain Wright MP

 Iain Wright MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Independent Review of the Private Rented Sector

Date of speech 23 October 2008
Location University of York
Event summary Launch of the independent review of the Private Rented Sector

Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version.

I want to start by thanking Julie, David and all their team for the work they have put into this review. And also to the many people who've given up their time to contribute.

I hope that you will continue to work with us in shaping a more effective private rented sector.

It's a very timely review - with the intense scrutiny on every aspect of the housing market at the moment.

The full implications of the global international turbulence are only now being realised.

No doubt there will also be a profound impact on the private rented sector too, which, although we have had glimpses, has yet to fully unfold.

At one time or another, most of us rent privately.

Whether sharing a house at university, moving to a new town for our first job, our first place away from home, the place where we first find independence, getting our adult lives started is most often in the private rented sector.

That was certainly true for me. I remember renting my first flat in London - in Kensington actually - for £40 a week. It sounds like a brilliant deal.

Actually it was in a basement with no windows, so it wasn't that great.

While a short-term stepping stone for some people, for many others, it helps meet their housing needs for a very long time.

People tend to think of long-term renting as a European practice, something that doesn't happen here. But actually, as the report states, one in five renters have been in their home for over five years.

Conversely, two in five have been there for less than 12 months.

That's just one aspect of the incredible diversity within the sector.

There's also a whole variety of people using it - everyone from wealthy business people in luxury flats, to those changing jobs mid career right through to seasonal workers and those on housing benefit.

That variety is often overlooked in the public debate, which tends to concentrate on the worst stereotypes - the messy student digs, the hopeless 'amateur' landlord, the dodgy tenant.

What the review shows is that while those situations do exist, they're very much in the minority.

Actually, more than three quarters of renters are satisfied with the service. And levels of dissatisfaction are lower than in social housing - which I think really challenges some misperceptions.

But there is no doubt that we could do more to improve the sector so that even more people can have a positive experience.

This is especially important if we are going to make sure that vulnerable groups - lone parents, families with young children, those on low incomes - get the service and security they need.

And as more people are looking to rent privately, it's important that they shouldn't feel pressured into taking risks and putting up with poor service.

It's not only the worst case scenarios involving unscrupulous landlords and unreliable tenants - deposits lost, unfair evictions, and repairs neglected.

It's also about looking more generally raising the quality of properties and standards of service.

Because, as the review shows, where landlords or letting agents don't have the experience or credentials, people don't get a professional service.

Yet any reform can't stifle the strengths of the sector - the flexibility and diversity, the range of choice.

In the present financial climate, having that flexible option is more important than ever before.

So we need to get the balance right, to make sure that more people find reliable services and affordable housing in a sector they can trust.

I haven't come here today with a masterplan in my pocket as to how we might do that.

But Julie and David have given us a set of very thoughtful and considered recommendations which help point the way forward.

The idea of a licensing for landlords and fuller regulation for agents may be one way to support good landlords and offer tenants greater guarantees of quality.

Alongside using current legislation, this would help drive out bad landlords and agents from the sector.

Though of course, we need to do much more work with you and the rest of the sector on how this would operate in practice.

This is undoubtedly an important starting point, and I look forward to working with you on the next stages.

Thank you very much.

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