It should be compulsory for landlords to prove their properties pass health and safety standards every year in a similar way to passing an MOT test for drivers.
That was the view of Theresa Wallace, co-founder and chair of professional association The Lettings Industry Council, who was speaking at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum in London yesterday along with representatives from the National Landlords Association and Generation Rent.
Wallace said: “You can’t drive a car legally on the road without having it taxed, insured and MOT’d.
“You shouldn’t be able to rent a property without it having minimum standards and knowing a property is safe.”
The Lettings Industry Council has produced an ‘MOT checklist’ detailing what’s required.
Local authorities would have to enforce the property MOT, while data should be stored in a property portal.
Wallace compared it to the DVLA holding 48 million driver records and 40 million vehicle records.
Richard Lambert, chief executive, National Landlords Association, admitted he “can see the benefit” of a property MOT and national registration scheme. He noted that it would pose a “massive threat” to the association because local authorities would be less likely to pay for information and guidance if data was already held.
But he said: “We absolutely agree every property should be safe, secure and should reach a required standard.
“The difficulty comes in what do you mean by a property MOT – what do you do to demonstrate that?
“If you start to think about having an independent inspection… [with] 2-3 hours a year of a person’s time – that’s probably looking at £200-300.
“Then if you add in the gas safety check, you add in electricity, you can start to see the costs rack up.”
Dr Julie Rugg, senior research fellow, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, said: “I don’t think tenants would trust an inspection from the landlord. We’d need to ensure there’s been an independent inspection.”
Hannah Slater, policy and public affairs manager of Generation Rent, backed the idea of holding data on landlords and their properties.
She said: “I completely support the idea of a mandatory national registration scheme.
“I think it would be so helpful for everybody: for tenants, for landlords, for people looking to come up with ways to fix the PRS and make it better.
“How can you come up with a joined-up strategy when you don’t have market data on who the landlords are, who the tenants are, where the properties are, and what the tenancy agreements look like?
“If you’ve got that in place… then it would be so helpful for all the other things that need to happen.”
The panel also discussed other issues related to the private rented sector.
The consensus was that England should wait and how Scotland’s new type of tenancy introduced in December 2017, the ‘private residential tenancy’, works in practice before deciding whether to imitate the change.
Generation Rent’s Hannah Slater was vocal about changes she felt the market needed.
She urged for the abolition of assured shorthold tenancy agreements, which she compared to zero hours contracts by disempowering tenants.
And she called for Section 21 to be scrapped, anecdotally referring to landlords issuing a Section 21 on tenants who want repairs done or who become pregnant.