MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL’S TASK FORCE FOR THE PRIVATE RENTAL SECTOR
A review of the Manchester City Council and the Role of Managing Agents and Letting Agents in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Task and Finish Group - 29 October 2014
Generation Rent’s Pollyanna Steiner attended the Manchester City Council meeting on 29 October 2014 where councillors took the first cautious steps towards possibly introducing a better system of regulation and accountability for letting and managing agents in the city.
Generation Rent Community Campaigns Manager Betsy Dillner spoke to the Role of Managing and Letting Agents in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Task and Finish Group previously on 18 September, where she put forward our concerns for the 9 million tenants nationally who are currently trying to maintain themselves in a decent level of housing in an unregulated sector. At that meeting the Chair asked group members to read ‘The Renters Manifesto: A blueprint for building a new sector in 2015’ and consider it for the final report, which we considered to be a positive step.
The 18 September meeting also saw the Council acknowledge that the growth of the private rental sector over the last 14 years has played an important role in the changes which have taken place in the city. This has not come without some negative effects, with some housing being of poor quality and some landlords engaging in practises which have badly affected tenants.
The Council resolved to make stronger links with landlord and letting agent bodies, such as the National Landlords Association, in order to begin bringing together resources so landlords can work to drive up standards.
It is the opinion of Generation Rent that these moves are positive and constructive. However there is concern around the decision not to impose a city-wide licensing scheme, which would see Manchester follow Liverpool’s lead nationally in shifting the sector towards a position where it is more accountable to those paying money into it.
Stepping forward from this to the meeting on 29 October, the taskforce discussed a series of recommendations including:
- The Council will, due to limited resources, concentrate on improving the very worst of the rental housing stock in the city.
- The Council will develop a ‘Tenants Charter’ to outline the rights and responsibilities of landlords and letting agents in the city. This will draw on the recent London Rental Standard, and should involve more well-signposted information for renters appearing on the Council’s website. It also mentioned having a list of landlords in Manchester who are registered with official trade bodies.
- Incentivising good practice.
- Growth & Neighbourhood Trading Standards Service to be more proactive with letting agents, including having a database for them as well, and ensuring that fees are properly signposted in advance.
The Council was positively disposed towards a national landlord registration scheme along the lines of the Scottish model, with incentives to landlords to sign up. They also felt that letting agent fees were inconsistently applied and set, and that more transparency in that area would be desirable.
While Generation Rent understands that the Council is in favour of banning letting agency fees for tenants, we hope that existing concerns about enforcing this and the allocation of time and resources can be addressed. The positive impact that the removal of these fees would have is something we hope the Council will consider in its calculations.
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