As the letting agent fee ban looms ahead, it is clear that legislation in the private rental sector is giving more and more power to tenants. One property management software provider believes that technology will also give renters greater powers.
Rising house prices, lifestyle changes and the availability of high-quality rental accommodation have led to a boom in renters. Around five million households, or 21% of all housing in the country, live in private rental homes, with a quarter of these being families with children.
This is set to surge to 5.79m (or 24%) over the next five years, alongside 14.3m owner-occupiers and 4.3m social tenants, according to forecasts by property firm Knight Frank.
Traditionally, tenants were in their 20s, but the demographic now is much wider, with professionals in their 30s, families and retirees choosing to rent for lifestyle reasons or because they simply can’t afford to buy a home in their local area.
This growth in the rental market has led to intense campaigning by the likes of Shelter and Generation Rent, who are working towards improving the quality of rental housing provided to social and private tenants, and increasing their rights.
New Government legislation has also been introduced to protect tenants, such as new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) to help reduce energy bills and make homes more efficient.
Rochelle Trup, the Finance Director of property management software Arthur, believes that legislation and technology advances are bringing more power to renters: “It remains to be seen how the ban on letting agents’ fees will impact tenants and if, in the long-term, it is in their interests. Certainly, the safety and security of tenants is becoming a major concern for the Government and local councils following the Grenfell Tower fire, which has put the plight of tenants in high-rise flats under the microscope.
“Several local councils have also introduced new licensing schemes for landlords to maintain housing and fire safety standards. Earlier this month, four Lincolnshire property investment landlords have been forced to pay £232,155 after failing to obtain the licensing required under the new selective licensing regime in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, which came into effect in July 2016.”
She continues: “All landlords in the area need to obtain a licence from the council, which will require investors to maintain their properties in accordance with certain conditions. The aim behind the scheme is to improve property standards in the town and keep a monitor on anti-social behaviour.
“The good news is that professional and reputable landlords and property investors are empowering tenants in a very positive way, through technology. Smartphone apps are being offered to tenants, so they can access gas safety certificates and call for help via an emergency button, reassuring tenants and helping to improve their safety.”
Trup explains how this works: “Technology is allowing tenants to sign contracts and access them along with financial documents without looking through mountains of paperwork, or potentially losing important documents. Now, tenants can access information from documentation, frequently asked questions, financial information, but, above all, they can raise and track any issues.
“Via apps, tenants can take a photo on their phone and attach this to a message that informs the letting agent or landlord of any issues with the property. The tenant can then track the progress of the landlord or letting agent and see when the issue is resolved. This speeds up communications and is more efficient, giving peace of mind for the tenants. It can also help prevent disputes, as all parties have a log of all the information relating to the issue.”
She concludes: “While it remains to be seen if further legislation will be introduced to support tenants, it is inevitable a big game changer will be technology. Tenant retention and tenant sanity will translate itself into a calmer management environment.”
Do you support legislative and technological advances to give more power to tenants?