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Priorities and opportunities for the PRS in Greater Manchester discussed

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Earlier in the month, ARLA Propertymark attended a seminar hosted by the Greater Manchester Authority on local priorities and opportunities for the Private Rented Sector in the City region. Also, in attendance were representatives from industry bodies, housing providers, local authorities and Shelter.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, was due to attend but unfortunately, he was dealing with the fires that had spread across Saddleworth Moor in Tameside, Winter Hill in Bolton and in Denshaw.        

The day started with four presentations followed by breakout workshops. The workshops covered the role of social letting agencies, the PRS in a regeneration context, a perspective from down south looking at the Mayor of London’s approach and a session looking at utilising local authority powers.

Kicking off the presentations was Dr Andrea Gibbons from the University of Salford who explored ‘the lived experiences of the Private Rented Sector’ in Salford. She outlined that the research she had conducted showed that the lower the rent, the lower the living conditions were.

Mark Glynn from Stockport City Council gave a presentation on improving the PRS from a local authority perspective. He said the market is not homogenous and there are different experiences. Furthermore, he said that amateur landlords were now looking after the most vulnerable and there is no market (financial) incentive for landlords to act appropriately.

Dave Power talked about how One Manchester is tackling a challenging PRS market in Gorton, where 25% of housing market is made up of the private rented sector and there are over 600 landlords. He said absentee landlords are a big issue and thus improving the condition of the housing stock is hard.

There was also a private landlord perspective, presented by Robert Johnson from the National Landlords Association. He said that communication between landlord and tenant is key and often a lack of communication is the cause in the breakdown of many relationships. Robert argued that landlords need more advice when working with vulnerable tenants. 

ARLA Propertymark attended the workshop on utilising local authority powers hosted by Breige Cobane from Manchester City Council. The aim of the workshop was to look at which local authorities’ activities in PRS work well and what could as a collective do more of and how.

In terms of enforcement and using its powers, Manchester City Council has 2,000 private rented sector properties in Selective Licensing Areas with only two full-time Selective Licensing Officers. Manchester City Council has 12 full-time officers working on HMO licensing with 1,350 HMO licenced properties (this could increase from 6,000 in October).

The Council works on a triage process because resources are an issue. They try to resolve issues before the need for a Housing Officer. Manchester City Council was awarded £280,000 from the DCLG Controlling Migration Fund for ‘Proactive Rogue Landlord’ work over two years.

ARLA Propertymark expressed concerns about the inconsistency of licensing schemes both in terms of costs and enforcement, whilst highlighting the need for more collaborative approaches such as Home Stamp in the West Midlands and the Leeds Neighbourhood Partnership. We argued that targets to inspect properties should be consistent for every local authority and that conditions of licensing schemes should be kept to a minimum to increase compliance and enforcement.

These meetings are a valuable way that ARLA Propertymark can continue to build relationships with local authorities, share knowledge and good practice, and be a voice for our members at every level of government. 

A summary and proposals for next steps will now be produced to drive future policy making in the region.