The National Rent Registry

Photo: Alexander Sinn

 


It won’t come as any surprise to you that frustration has increased during the pandemic 

According to Kings College London, 67% of us have found this time has added to our stress levels. So, adding Covid stress to research stress when analysing the PRS and its subsector BTR, creates levels of frustration that figuratively has me tearing my hair out. 

 

The Data is Inconsistent

Many will kindly point me to various sources of data, none of which accord mind you, or tell me the data they have is better than the bloke’s down the road because they use AI or a fancy algorithm (For which read an itinerant with a lap-top). Either that or a PR's intern whose job is it is to create a click-bait list of unverifiable percentages.

 

I can spend as much time scraping the portals, wandering down EPC lane or up the English Housing Survey hill as the next person. I can wade through rivers of ONS or other Government data. I can surf HomeLet or HomeTrack all of which give me a taster, but not the whole meal. It leaves me ravenous for more, but with an empty plate. It’s so exasperating that, in desperation, I resort to mixed metaphors.

 

Yes, there are good sources of data, but no complete data sources

The range of average national monthly rents, depending on the source, can vary by as much as £200. WTF!?

Then there’s the jealously guarded data held by companies citing either some sort of fanciful IP or commercial confidentiality. Or, if we’re very lucky, we might get to the end game position of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”.

None of the above gives me any confidence in the joined-up accuracy I want and which the sector desperately needs especially as it becomes ever more professional.  It levels up the data game. I can think of some who would not want the performance of their assets laid bare. But it would be the same for all; no smoke and mirrors, no outlandish claims of operational performance. With the facts, no one is disadvantaged. I don't see Berkeley Homes having a temper tantrum because their sales data is a matter of public record. Why should a BTR investor be any different? 

 

 It's Time for The National Rent Registry:

It simply must happen. The purpose of a National Rent Registry would be to fully document the PRS by collecting comprehensive and robust data. We have it for sales, now's the time we have it for rentals too. 

 

Government should legislate to make initial registration of all the PRS tenancies

 

This should include: Common Law Tenancies (Annual rent over £100k and Company Tenancies) compulsory. This should form part of the statutory documentation required to present at the beginning of each tenancy. You would need it alongside EPC’s, Govt’s ‘How to Rent’ book, Gas Safety Certificate, Relevant contact details, details of relevant Deposit Protection Scheme, and from April 1st 2021, Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) Initially, I believe a one-off fee set up fee of £10 to register existing tenancies would be appropriate.

 

 

This initial registration fee would generate one-off revenue of approximately £40.04m in England alone.

A fee of £10 would be levied on all new tenancies or a change in tenancy status, where it becomes periodic for example. Responsibility for initial registration and subsequent new tenancy registrations will lie with the landlord. Landlords will be able to nominate an agent to complete new registrations and submit the fee.

 

A registration fee of £10 for each new tenancy or change of tenancy status would generate annual revenue of at least £20m

 

 There has been a big push by government and other property trade bodies for Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRN’s) So here’s the opportunity to implement them. Each PRS property will have a Unique Identification Number (UIN) using UPRN’s as a basis for identification. The URPN history will record the status of each property at any point in time. If a property does not have a UPRN, initial registration will create one.

 

It is not proposed, and there is no need, to collect any additional data points that are not already collected during the process of arranging a tenancy. We just need to put them in one accessible place.

 

The register would centralise the data in a single place.  All non-personal data to be freely available.

 

Data Points:

Property,

  • Type, Street, Town, Region, Country. Given by UPRN and cross-referenced with the EPC

Tenancy:

  • Agreed annual or six-monthly rent. Term of AST or Common Law Tenancy (Company Let)
  • Tenancy start date. Tenancy end date.
  • Periodic tenancies to be updated, recorded as such and a fee paid based on annualised rent.

Landlord and Tenant:

  • Landlord name and address
  • Tenant(s) name, age and previous address

Referencing:

  • Tenant(s) income details

Deposits:

  • Confirmation of which deposit protection scheme has been taken up. Or
  • Confirmation of which deposit insurance scheme is being used. Or
  • No deposit required.

Further Options:

Copies of:

  • EICR,
  • Gas Safety Record (CP12),
  • EPC.

 

Evidence-Based Policy.

The PRS National Rent Registry would provide government with comprehensive data on the PRS. Data that is not currently available and not sufficiently robust enough to give clear information on the performance and real scale of the PRS would be easy to access.

  • Rental pricing and movements across the country, illustrating clear regional differences in rental growth/decline would be accurate.
  • Cohort groups and demographics would be accurate and identifiable.
  • Length of stay and migration patterns would be easy to locate.
  • Accurate data on void and reletting periods would be included.
  • Clear data on the performance of the Buy-to-Let rentals v Build-to-Rent illustrating the influence professionalising the sector has on each data point would be very useful.
  • Data on the age of the property within the PRS.

 

 

If we had one resource where we could understand everything that was going on in the PRS, life would be a lot simpler for all of us. We would build better buildings in better locations and understand better who we were building for. We would know, unequivocally, what the rent levels were in minute detail.

 

 

We would know exactly how many people relied upon the PRS for a place to live and call home. We would also know where and what type those homes were without wasting time, effort, and money to source the numbers.

 

 

BTR has professionalised the PRS, it’s about time we also professionalised the data right across the sector. And it can't come soon enough.

 

Richard Berridge

Head of Strategy and Enterprise at Howsy.com 

 

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