Housing Minister John Healey has announced new practical help and protection for tenants in privately rented homes. The moves will help tenants find safer and better homes for rent and offer extra support if they face problems with their landlords or accommodation.

A new housing hotline will open for business by the summer to offer private tenants free practical advice when problems occur and a new ‘tripadvisor’ style feedback website could allow tenants to post views on their accommodation and landlord.

Plans laid in parliament today to make written agreements a legal requirement for all tenancies will mean tenants are clear about their rights from the outset and basic information on prospective landlords be available through a new National Landlords Register.

Tenancy rights will be extended to more people living in shared homes on short term lets – giving extra protection to around 150,000 more people including many students and seasonal workers.

Privately rented homes provide a flexible housing option to three million households in England. But while the vast majority – three quarters – of tenants say they are satisfied with their rented home many tenants can face difficulties.

The package of measures outlined in The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps, following on from the Rugg Review published in 2008, will ensure tenants have the information and help they need to make informed decisions about the homes they rent, legal protection and certainty about their rights and extra support to help them deal with any disputes.

Mr Healey confirmed the Government’s intention to bring in legislation to introduce the National Landlords Register and a tougher regulatory regime for managing letting agents to drive out the rogue elements that can sometimes tarnish the image of the sector and those who play by the rules.

The Minister also pledged to explore more ways of lending practical support to organisations who represent the interests of private sector tenants in the same way as for public housing.

The package includes:

  • a new housing hotline offering free help and advice for private tenants
  • a ‘tripadvisor’ style word-of-mouth website comparing landlords
  • a requirement for written tenancy agreements in all tenancies that will strengthen the hand of tenants should they face a dispute
  • boosting the number of tenants protected under the most commonly used tenancy agreement
  • a National Register for Landlords to help tenants make basic checks on their prospective landlords
  • better regulation of letting and managing agents, which will help tackle the rogue agents who can drag the reputation of the Private Rented Sector down.

Housing Minister John Healey said:

“Over three million families live in private rented housing and while the majority of tenants say they’re happy with their homes and landlords many do face problems with their landlord and should have better help and protection on hand.

“Every tenant should be confident in their decision to rent as well as be clear what to expect before they sign on the dotted line. That’s why I’m making information about the track record of landlords available to everyone and written tenancy agreements will mean all tenants are clear about their rights from the outset. Extending protections to more shared homes an estimated 150,000 more people on short term lets will also have tenancy rights for the first time. But if things do go wrong a new housing hotline will mean tenants have somewhere to turn for help and advice.

“Creating Local Letting Agencies, where councils and good landlords work together to help local people find better-quality homes in the private rented sector will help to side-line the cowboys across the country.”

The Minister also wants to see the standards of the best spread more widely, and he’s backing work underway with councils across England to encourage best practice in taking a more business-friendly approach to working with the best landlords and agents in their area.