The Communities and Local Government Committee has published a report on the private rented sector and it sets out a list of recommendations for action by the government. Perhaps the most far- reaching suggestion is that letting and managing agents should be subject to the same regulations that currently cover estate agents who sell property. Amongst other things this would mean that lettings agents would have to have professional indemnity insurance and they would have to have client money protection in place. Another controversial suggestion is that let properties should have an electrical safety certificate involving an inspection every five years.

Some of the other main points from the MP’s report are:

Simpler regulation
More straightforward regulations covering the sector so that landlords and tenants can better understand their rights and responsibilities. Few landlord insurance clients would disagree with that.

Raising standards
Local councils should be encouraged to do more to raise standards in the private let property sector but enforcement activity should be made to pay for itself. This would involve recouping costs from landlords who were in breach of the law.

Licensing
The committee was not in favour of national licensing of private landlords but it did feel that local authorities should be given greater flexibility to run their own licensing schemes. The MPs did warn that the cost of the licence should not be so high that it acted as a disincentive to enter the private rented sector.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
The government should review the mandatory licensing of HMOs to see how well the scheme was performing.
Universities should be encouraged to ensure that student housing does not have a detrimental impact upon local communities.

Safety
As well as suggesting an electrical safety certificate, the committee recommends that all private rented property should have a smoke alarm and where appropriate a carbon monoxide alarm

Agents’ charges
Agents’ charges should be clearly and prominently displayed.