The Communities and Local Government Department has decided to set up a select committee to investigate the private rented sector and its brief will cover the possible regulation of landlords and letting agents. The Association of Residential Lettings Agents has welcomed this move because it has been campaigning for some time for statutory regulation of letting agents. They say that with more people living in rented accommodation than ever before it is time for the government to take action.

Some of our landlord insurance clients may like to contribute to the investigation and if so they should visit the website. Written submissions of no more than 3,000 words should be made before 17th January 2013.

The new select committee will look at:

• Tenancy Agreements
• Rents and how landlords are paid housing benefit
• Possible regulation of landlords
• Letting agents- including dealing with unwarranted fees
• Licensing and planning issues concerning houses in multiple occupation
• The quality of private rented housing

At present anyone can start a lettings business without any qualifications or experience. There have been many cases of rogue landlords exposing their tenants to dangerous and unsuitable accommodation. As well as that, some agents have been criticized for unreasonable fees and charges. Local councils already have power to prosecute the worst landlords and many come to court each year. However the ARLA believe that greater regulation will help to protect consumers from unqualified and unscrupulous agents.

The announcement of the select committee took many by surprise because Grant Shapps, until recently the housing minister had ruled out the regulation of the industry. However he was recently replaced by a new minister, Mark Prisk