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Comment: Where will the MOT buck stop?

Landlords and tenants must share responsibility for property standards.

The suggestion of a “property MOT” for private rental homes has recently hit the headlines. On the face of it, a regular 12-month review to ensure the home meets required standards seems difficult to argue against.

Of course, most landlords who use letting agents will get (at least) an annual review of their property from them, looking at the upkeep and whether it requires any remedial work.

Indeed, it may be quite easy to tweak the letting agent’s annual review into a regulated appraisal but one has to ask the question of who will be carrying out these inspections, what powers they will have, what the censure might be and, rather importantly, how much they will cost.

Lenders want to ensure they are lending on private rental properties that meet high standards and it is clearly of benefit to everyone in the industry if there are required standards that must be maintained.

Despite much work in this part of the market “slum landlords” still exist and we should be doing all we can to ensure “slum properties” are not coming to market. That being said, there is clearly a responsibility on both landlord and tenant here.

If, 12 months on from a successful MOT, the property is inspected and does not meet these standards where should the blame be put?

Of course, it depends on what areas have failed the inspection but, still, adherence to standards has to work both ways – landlords should not be expected to pay when the required standards have not been met due to the fact the tenant has not maintained them.

If such an MOT is introduced, tenants must be made clear of their responsibilities and – in that sense – it is probably going to need an independent arbitrator to decide on where standards have not been maintained and who might be to blame.

That sort of appraisal will come at a cost and might potentially need a body like National Trading Standards to determine. At present, NTS does not have the funding nor resources to deliver on this.

If this idea comes to fruition the body in charge is going to need both in spades, which makes me wonder whether we will see this introduced any time soon.

Bob Young is chief executive of Fleet Mortgages

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