Tenants get more consumer protection when buying a fridge-freezer than when renting a house, according to a radical new report on the private rented sector.

Left-wing think-tank The Smith Institute says these rights should be bolstered and that those taken for granted in sectors such as utilities and financial services should be applied to renting.

As moving home is such a stressful and dislocating experience, it believes tenants can be less reluctant to exercise their consumer sovereignty by ‘switching’.

A plethora of Acts of Parliament and regulations can be confusing, with a real lack of clarity for both tenants and landlords around rights and obligations.

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Landlord register

Its report criticises the lack of basic information on important safety issues for tenants and the lack of an accessible public register so they can check to see if they are dealing with a landlord who has a good track record of treating renters fairly.

The Smith Institute is also calling on the Government to protect and empower renters with a raft of measures including a new Private Rented Sector Regulator to ensure consumers are treated fairly and the introduction of an open-ended Private Residential Tenancy, including removing no-fault evictions and increasing notice periods for longer term tenants.

It suggests reforming redress and dispute resolution by introducing mandatory membership of the Housing Ombudsman Service for landlords and lettings agents, along with an independent Private Renters Panel to represent the interests of renters and to help shape Government policy.

It also proposes that all landlords should provide better information for tenants, setting out terms of the tenancy, information about the property, information about the landlord and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

A review of mandatory third-party deposit schemes is also advised, with a new National Tenancy Deposit Scheme if these aren’t robust enough.

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