Uncharted Territory

January 14, 2009

Renting References

Filed under: Economics, Housing market — Tim Joslin @ 4:23 pm

Following on from my last post, there’s a great piece by Renter Girl in today’s Guradian Society section.  It’s not on her blog yet, but I guess may appear there soon.  Her point is that landlords as well as tenants should have to provide references.  As a comment on the Guardian piece puts it:

“…the laws governing private lettings need to be rebalanced.  Tenants rights have been minimal since assured shorthold tenancies became the norm (due to legal changes made in its death-throes by the Major “government”).

…the most important references would be from previous tenants, preferably at the same property or, for a new let, at another of a landlord’s properties.  New landlords should have to provide character references, but I expect even a no-mates weirdo king would be able to find a bloke in the pub to write something nice about them.

Any financial problems a landlord may have should not be allowed to affect tenancies, but – since it’s likely that a landlord’s credit score will only go negative when his BTL empire collapses – rather than provide tenants with credit references, I think it would be better to improve security of tenure, which should be maintained (as, to be fair, is the current insecurity of tenure) even if a property is sold.  Or repossessed.”

Another idea I haven’t mentioned yet was that the managing agent (see my response to Renter Girl’s point 2 in my previous post) should be responsible for maintaining files on properties to be shown to prospective tenants – a bit like Home Information Packs (HIPs) for house purchasers, I suppose.  As well as, for example, the newly introduced Energy Performance Certificates, such a file would include correspondence relating to the property, and in particular letters and emails from previous tenants and any replies.  Landlords would then have a greater incentive to deal with the cause of complaints.

Perhaps Brown’s government is too busy saving the world to do a bit of heavy-lifting – providing sensible legislation for the private rental market would improve the lives of millions of tenants.

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