Buy to let regulation is too confusing and patchy because the government does not have a joined up policy for the private rental sector, claims a new report.

Too many departments and agencies are involved and make decisions without evidence leaving landlords and tenants unsure of their rights and obligations, says the study by academics at York University.

Although the government wants to move from personal to institutional investment in private letting, buy to let lacks a comprehensive strategy, argues the authors.

The result, they say, is contradictory and confusing regulation.

The research, funded by the Nationwide Foundation, also reveals housing standards are low, with a fifth of the most expensive rentals and a third of the cheapest failing to offer decent homes.

Landlords are blamed for poor standards as housing conditions seem to worsen the longer a tenant stays in a home.

Universal Credit is also criticised for creating a slum market because tenants cannot afford to rent a decent home because of cuts in benefits.

Build To Rent is also slammed for ignoring poorer renters in favour of offering decent homes to wealthier tenants who cannot afford to buy a property of their own.

Julie Rugg, the report’s co-author, said:

“Declining homeownership and a shortage of social rented homes has seen a surge in the number of people privately renting – particularly families with young children.

“The private rental market isn’t providing a suitable alternative to ownership and, in the absence of an overarching vision from any government, we’ve seen reams of policies and regulations which are not joined up or thought through.

“We need to see a fundamental rethink of the role that private renting plays in our housing market and a comprehensive strategy to ensure it meets the needs of every renter.”

She is calling for the government to rethink policy and for independent inspectors to check private rented homes each year as part of a property MOT that will ensure homes are safe and in good repair as a tax-deductible expense to encourage landlords to invest more in their properties.