Ex-Ombudsman: If Government really has a strategy, why doesn’t anyone know what it is?

Anyone who attended the ARLA conference at the Excel a few weeks back will remember Michael Portillo speaking and his comments countering suggestions that the government was ‘tinkering’ with legislation in relation to the private rented sector.

As Property Ombudsman I had previously used the term ‘scatter gun’ in relation to the disparate pieces of legislation that have been enacted in the past year or so.

David Cox, managing director of ARLA, has also used the term which Michael seemed to take exception to.

Whilst no longer a politician, Michael gave what I thought was a politician’s response, namely that the Government was not tinkering but was pursuing a strategy.

If the Government were pursuing strategy then it is strange that none of the trade bodies, redress schemes or tenancy deposit schemes have been enlightened as to what this strategy is.

All have been trying to keep up with the many consultations on the individual pieces of legislation that have appeared and whilst the government strategy might be to maximise income to the Treasury, it does not necessarily recognise the potential impact on the industry or the consumer.

I think it fair to say that everyone involved in property recognises the importance of the Private Rented Sector in reducing homelessness and generally in providing the roof over people’s heads in a time when buying property is beyond the reach of many.

The Government should therefore be supportive of the sector, not making life difficult for those who are facilitating the provision of rented property and it should not react to populist views that, for example, fees charged to tenants are excessive and should be banned.

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, at the same conference, claimed that the Government wanted a professional sector, expanded to meet consumer need with an adequate supply of rental property.

That is a strategy that everyone can understand and so if that is indeed the Government’s formal strategy, it needs a coherent and inclusive approach.

That means coherent and consolidated legislation and support for the sector and a clear consumer protection policy. But even then the minister made clear that compulsory Client Money Protection (CMP) was a non starter, the Government being mindful of the costs to agents.

He did not seem to recognise that a majority of agents have that cover in place anyway and it is only those agents who present a risk to the consumer by currently not having the cover, who would incur additional costs.

Following that statement by the minister we now hear that continued pressure by Baroness Hayter for mandatory provision has brought about an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill which will enable the government to review the need for CMP – a step in the right direction but why only go half way?

It is said that Nero ‘fiddled whilst Rome burned’.

This statement has come to mean that something irresponsible and trivial was being done during an emergency.

I would not suggest that the Government is being irresponsible in relation to the PRS but certainly it does appear to be tinkering while the PRS needs attention.

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4 Comments

  1. eltell

    A well considered comment from an informed and respected professional.

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  2. Robert May

    In the mean time those best placed to drive  sell regulated improvement to the industry are the ones  preventing progress being made.

    It is very clear that  the industry knowledge within regulating bodies such as the redress schemes is  restricted to  individual niche responsibilities. Contradictory and simply wrong understanding of legislation and technology is used as a defence to cover up an often Gossamer thin understanding of what is actually going on;  no-one seems to have an overall ‘helicopter’ view or responsibility.

    I freely admit to having difficultly explaining what I do, that isn’t helped by scepticism that anyone does anything decent and noble these days, but there is an unhealthy, resistance to change, mentality that seems to reject consideration of any plan before it is even explained.

    Perhaps Mr Hamer would be a very good, very experienced, very influential and very connected hub who could consider proposals to improve the industry from within and so lay a solution at the door of civil servants and MP’s who can’t and don’t have the qualification or practical experience to produce a coherent and workable strategy for all.

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  3. Property Paddy

    yes those little tinkers !

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  4. Peter Green

    Agree with most if not all of Chris Hamer’s piece.

    However, one wonders why an ex-politician like Michael Portillo is being invited to speak about something he (probably) knows very little about. He may be a good speaker (?) and have a passion for trains & railways, but does it really qualify him …. ?

    It is clearly so obvious (at least to me) that politicians are almost always only concerned about gathering (or not losing) votes, that the notion of a coherent strategey on any particular topic one cares to mention is a contradiction in terms. Try it…..

    Politician …. coherent strategy

    Doesn’t scan at all, does it ?

    I suppose the best we can hope for is that they (the politicians) move on to something else before they cause too much damage !

     

     

     

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