Consumer law and housing – contemporary developments Presentation by Martin Partington Conference on Contemporary Housing Issues, Galway, April 2012
Outline • Reflexions on the English housing market • Linking housing and consumer law • The Commission’s programme • Renting homes • Dispute resolution • Responsible renting • Subsequent developments • promoting the consumer approach • Closing remarks
Issues in the English housing market • not enough housing • the unequal political and social balance between house purchase and home rental; • the decline of social housing; the increased role of the PRS; • the problems with the PRS – mom and pop industry; • lack of institutional investment; • reputational issues.
Issues in the English housing market (2) • English Housing Survey: • ‘In 2010-11, 66% of households were owner occupiers. This appears to continue the gradual downward trend observed from 2007. The social rented sector accounted for 17.5% of households and the private rented sector accounted for 16.5% of households.’ • ‘Figure 1 shows that over the last 30 years the difference between the number of social renters and private renters has narrowed from over 3 million to around 200,000.’
Linking housing and consumer law • Housing Act 1988 • The choice agenda • Promotion of Housing Associations • Consumers = the poor • Liberalisation of the PRS • Missed opportunity? • Housing Act 1996 • Further liberalisation • EU – UTCCR Regs 1999 – application to tenancies • Work of the OFT (2005)
The Law Commission’s programme (1) • Renting Homes • Law reform – getting the law clearer • Housing: Proportionate Dispute Resolution • Emphasis on advice and ADR • Encouraging Responsible Renting • Regulation of the PRS – new approaches
Law Commission’s programme (2): What we were trying to achieve • Level the playing field for social and private sectors • The consumer protection approach • better understanding of mutual rights and obligations; • plain language agreement that actually reflected what the law said • New approaches to dispute resolution • Analysis of a sensible regulatory approach • But: ...frustrations in trying to ‘sell’ the approach
Subsequent developments promoting the consumer approach(1) • Labour Government • Tenant Services Authority • Tenancy Deposit Protection • Thought about: • landlord registration; Rugg • Model agreements • Regulation of letting agents
Subsequent developments promoting the consumer approach(2) • Conservatives/Coalition Government • Against regulation; though in favour of consumer protection • Retain TDP • Abandoned the rest • Localism Act 2011 – even more complexity • How do you protect the consumer without effective regulation?
Subsequent developments promoting the consumer approach(3) • Wales • likely to register letting agents • are thinking about wider aspects of our work • Scotland Introduced • landlord registration • About to launch TDP • Northern Ireland • About to launch TDP
Subsequent developments promoting the consumer approach(4) • Things happening in the market place: • Local authority working with the rented sector • accreditation • Continuing efforts to promote letting agent regulation – the professional bodies • TDP has certainly offered consumer protection for deposits • But: • Reputational problems remain • Courts still v inefficient way of resolving disputes • Fundamental need to clarify the legislation • Failure to attract significant new institutional investment.
Closing remarks • Blueprint for policy flexibiltiy • Legal framework to encourage private investment • Make life better for tenants and landlords • How to get politicians to take renting seriously?