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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Private rented sector review – tell us how it works in your area


Understanding the private rented sector is now more important than ever, says Dr Julie Rugg, of York University’s Centre for Housing Policy – whichever part of housing you work in.

We are all now observers and students of the private rented sector. So many aspects of local authority activity come on a winding pathway back to working with private landlords. Understanding the sector is now more important than ever, not least as the Homelessness Reduction Bill comes into force.

This is a good time to take stock, and have a clear view about what the private rented sector can deliver, and in what circumstances. In 2008, David Rhodes and I were commissioned to undertake a review of the sector. The remit was remarkably broad, and we pushed to broaden it further to include issues relating to local housing allowance and landlord taxation. The process was an exercise in understanding what could be claimed and evidenced, and what was simply claimed about how the sector worked and what its problems were. The review aimed to encourage policy makers to take a more nuanced look at the way that the private rented sector worked, in containing diverse demand groups, serviced by a wide variety of suppliers, and shaped by the peculiarities of locality.

Nearly ten years later, the Nationwide Foundation has taken the very welcome decision to fund a repeat review. This new investigation is again independent with the same wide remit, but also includes some new opportunities. We’ll be interrogating existing data but we’ll also be able to gather fresh data using the national Ipsos MORI omnibus household survey. This will help us to understand how people enter and exit private renting both as a tenant and as a landlord.

A call for evidence – can you help?

The research is also funding a call for information.

What we want to ask you as housing professionals is simple: what is your private rental market like? Every market is different, and every market is challenging in ways that can’t be anticipated very easily. So, for example, do you find it hard to attract landlords willing to let to people who receive Local Housing Allowance? Do you have particular problems with property quality? Is there a limited supply of certain types of housing – for example, shared properties? And what have you done to deal with those problems? The review is also looking for examples of innovative practice and obstacles to innovation. Policy recommendation needs to be grounded in what is feasible and demonstrably workable.

Collating a response is a good excuse for local authority officers across a range of functions to meet together: housing options, housing benefit administration, homelessness teams, enforcement officers and planning officers will all have a view on what the local private rented sector is delivering, and whether that delivery could be improved.

Putting a response together should be straightforward – we’re asking you to focus on four areas:  

  1. Describe your local private rented sector. Please indicate how you have evidenced your account.
  2. Are there any problems relating to the private rented sector in your area? Again, please present evidence for those problems.
  3. What would you say are the major obstacles you face in attempts to resolve those problems?
  4. Have you implemented any solutions that have had a demonstrable impact in dealing with the problems in your local private rented sector?

You can email us your answers as either a word document or PDF by the end of September.

Later in the year we’ll be holding round-table meetings to discuss the findings from our data analysis and our analysis of all the evidence that’s been submitted.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Work and Pensions and the Policy Unit at Number 10 have all expressed interest in the findings of the review, which will be launched in June 2018 – so we really hope you’ll take the opportunity to shape its recommendations.

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