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Professional approach needed to drive up standards in PRS, claim BTL developers

With more than a quarter of homes in the rented sector (PRS) failing to meet the government’s Decent Homes standards, a more professional approach is needed to improve conditions and customer experience, according to various developers of build to rent (BTR) housing.

The English Housing Survey, an annual report published by The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has highlighted the continual shift towards private renting and the need for vastly improved standards for English homes.

Some 28% of properties in the PRS are considered to be in substandard condition, which takes into account the levels of disrepair, electrical safety, the health effects of issues such as damp and a range of other indicators. But this does represent an improvement from a decade ago when the figure stood at 47%.

The survey identified that almost one in five of those living in private renting lacked even basic fire protection such as smoke alarms, which is worrying, given that the number of people renting privately has nearly doubled over the last decade, with around 4.5 million household now renting, representing 20% of all households in England today.

The survey suggested that that many people renting from private landlords suffer from a lack of security, illustrated by the fact that roughly two third of those who were evicted from their homes because their landlord wanted to either use or sell the property.

“The issues across the private rented sector are often ones of security, from tenancy length to fire protection,” said Jean Marc-Vandevivere, chief executive at PLATFORM_.

He points out that in comparison those in the BTR have a financial incentive to retain their customers for as long as possible. 

BTR developments are often backed by institutional investors who are looking for stable, long-term returns meaning that they are less likely to sell their properties.

Marc-Vandevivere continued: “Those in the build to rent sector have a vested interest in keeping hold of their tenants and ensuring that the homes we provide are to the highest possible standard.

“The continual growth of the private rented sector demands a change in approach, we need to see a shift towards professionally managed homes that provide what renters are really looking for, a secure place to live and grow.”

Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda Living, was keen to point out that the English Housing Survey found that dissatisfaction rates of those in the private rented sector was the highest of any tenure group, with more than one in five renters dissatisfied with their current accommodation, in comparison that figure sits at 10% for social housing and less than 1% of owner occupiers.

Caddick said: “The many real concerns people have around renting are totally justified, but our aim is to address all of these with purpose-built developments that are managed 24/7 and which engender a real sense of community.

“We have a commercial imperative to do things properly, whereas traditional buy to let landlords have little incentive to maintain and upgrade knackered old properties. Renters in Britain deserve a better deal – as they receive in the U.S. and Europe.”

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