The third annual Paragon Great Buy-to-Let Debate was held this week, where property industry experts and representatives from academia and the media gathered to discuss the key issues in the lettings market.
One of the main focal points of the lively discussion was Labour’s plans to introduce three-year tenancies agreements as standard, abolish letting agent fees, and impose rent controls.
David Whittaker, managing director of Mortgages for Business, warned that Labour risk exacerbating the housing shortage by driving landlords out of the lettings market, thereby driving up rents and worsening the problem that their legislation intends to address.
Indeed, their entire plan for the private rented sector was dismissed as “totally the wrong solution.”
With regard to fees, the panel agreed that too many rogue landlords and letting agents are currently allowed to operate, charging extortionate fees to tenants. However, they did not think that imposing further regulation on the industry was the solution.
John Heron, managing director of Paragon Mortgages, said: “I don’t think we need heavy regulatory structure, but we do need a way of making sure letting agents adopt a professional approach.”
The general take-home message from the debate was that, while the private rented sector is not perfect, it is not broken. Tampering with regulation could well have unintended consequences. Therefore, basing PRS policy on a populist narrative to be used as leverage against political opponents, rather than an honest evaluation of evidence, can only be damaging.