This report authored by the London School of Economics (LSE) explores the complex and intertwined issues of longer term tenancies and rent stabilisation in the private rented sector (PRS) in England.

It has been written at a time when the political focus on the PRS has intensified, reflecting the rapid growth and significance of this sector over the past two decades.

Piecemeal reforms run the risk of making the situation worse. The report argues there is a case for putting incentives in place to secure the support of landlords. But all of this has to be underpinned by strong and effective enforcement – not least through specialist courts. A Housing Court is a necessary cornerstone of any tenancy reforms

Introduction

This research report was funded by the RLA has been authored by Christine Whitehead and Peter Williams of the LSE, two of the UK’s leading academic researchers on the Private Rented Sector (PRS). 

It is a follow-up to a previous report which looked at rent controls and their implementation. Since this report was published the RLA undertook its own research, looking at the experience of rent controls and rent stabilisation policies in Europe and the USA. 

Now this report contextualises and links the debates between three main areas of concern – length of tenancy, rent determination, and enforcement.

Report findings

The authors recognise bad landlords and bad tenants make up a very small proportion of the total sector. Even so, having a well operating enforcement system will benefit not just those directly affected but everyone involved – in part because imporoved enforcement systems would “almost certainly” reduce the need to use that system.

The authors are critical of the previous approach to reforming the PRS. Noting that the Government have opposed fundamental review and reform of the law around the sector, and have instead favoured piecemeal adjustments, typically without much monitoring or assessment of the impacts.

At the time of writing the report, the expectation was that Assured Shorthold Tenancies would no longer be available for new tenancies. This will happen with the abolition of section 21.   

The authors acknowledge not all tenants want longer term tenancies and such tenancies do pose risks for both tenants and landlords in terms of liabilities, flexibilities and enforcement.

Their central argument is whilst the way forward may be indefinite tenancies, this should only be on the basis of a reformed enforcement process – the creation of housing courts which could offer landlords and tenants timely and effective resolution.

The report this blog post refers to has been produced independently by Christine Whitehead, Emeritus Professor in Housing Economics at the London School of Economics & Dr Peter Williams, Departmental Fellow at the Centre for Housing & Planning Research, University of Cambridge. The views expressed in the report are the authors’ own and not necessarily those of the RLA.

This summary of the report has been written by Nick Clay of the RLA.  It is not intended to be a complete precis of the report.