The Association of Residential Letting Agents has dismissed fears the buy-to-let market is in danger of overheating.
Speaking at ARLA's annual conference in London, chairman John Crossley said: “It represents only 10% of the total rental market. There is scope for more investment in the private rented sector for the foreseeable future.”
Crossley also said the government must introduce practical public protection in the private rented sector if it is to provide quality housing for all.
This includes more effort to safeguard rents and deposits held by regulated agents, and the reform of housing benefit. Crossley says: “Giving these individuals the responsibility for handing over the rent themselves instead of it being paid directly to the landlord by the local authority does not address the problem.
“It is merely patronising the hapless benefit tenants, not helping to house them in the Private Rented Sector.”
He adds: “Payments already scheduled in arrears are paid late. There is no deposit guarantee system through which to protect property and there is always the risk of the clawback of rent from landlords and agents when an authority believes the rent should not have been paid on behalf of the tenant.”
Turning to anti-social tenants, Crossley said that the government expects too much of the private sector. “It is trying to put the onus on mature and respectable landlords to do the work of police or local authorities and control anti-social behaviour. ”
To protect the public's money, Mr Crossley called for very clear differentiation between the levels of compulsory bonding schemes and the speed of restitution, as operated by ARLA and other professional organisations and accreditation schemes.
He says: “While we support any attempt to bring higher standards to the lettings industry, the public must be kept fully aware of the difference in the levels of protection for clients' money, and in the requirements for training, qualifications and the demands of compliance with best practice and professional indemnity. These vary considerably and the benchmark standard should be as high as the ARLA standard.”
ARLA believes the government-backed Tenancy Deposit Scheme has such a strong role to play in protecting the public where properly regulated agents are not used. ARLA also supports the use of the scheme by its own members as well.
Crossley concluded that the private rented sector can and should play a major role in providing choice of tenure and the provision of quality housing.
He says: “This can only happen provided that impractical regulation does not damage the confidence of the new breed of investor landlords. Buy-to-let has played a significant part in restoring the private rented sector from its nadir in the late 1980s and it has made renting socially acceptable once again by bringing good quality housing to the market.”