NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle shares new research suggesting unreliable and inconsistent data is muddying the waters when it comes to monitoring standards in the PRS.
Housing standards within the private rented sector have hit the headlines yet again, with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) this month pledging to introduce the Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rented Sector.
Currently only applying to the social rented sector, the standard was brought in to ensure homes are kept warm and in good repair.
Well, there are a number of issues.
At present, the standard is designed specifically for the social rented sector and as such does not reflect many of the differences between it and the private rented sector. This includes the types and age of properties in each.?
The Decent Homes Standard includes strict rules around issues such as the age of kitchens and bathrooms, arbitrary figures which do not reflect whether the fixtures and fittings are fit for purpose or not. This could potentially have a huge impact on landlords with older properties – even if they are in perfectly good condition.
As we know there are currently more than 168 laws and regulations covering PRS homes. Far from being an ‘unregulated sector’ – a claim so often bandied about in the media – the real issue at play here is the enforcement of these regulations which varies wildly depending on your local authority area.
The Government’s announcement on Decent Homes coincides with the publication of a new report on local authority enforcement from the NRLA, which highlights huge disparities between councils’ approaches when it comes to monitoring standards and dealing with complaints.
Local authorities currently have a number of enforcement options available to them if landlords are not meeting their responsibilities or property standards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Civil penalties can be introduced to fine landlords for failures and councils can bring criminal prosecutions against landlords guilty of serious breaches.
The NRLA used freedom of information requests to ask local councils about civil penalties issued between 2018 and 2021 and found a complete lack of consistency in the way inspections, notices and prosecutions are approached and recorded across the board.
What is clear from this is that rather than introducing new standards, Government needs to take a few simple steps to create a level playing field and standardise the way data on complaints and inspection rates is collected, including the introduction of a requirement for figures are passed to DLUHC.
It also needs to look at the challenges facing those local authorities that are under-performing – and encouraging those who are high performers to share their experiences.
We know that property standards in the PRS are already improving.
The proportion of properties with a category 1 hazard under HHSRS has declined in the 10 years from 28% in 2009 to 13% in 2019. While this is far from perfect, it shows that things are moving in the right direction – and fast.
Every PRS tenant should have the right to expect their property to be warm, safe and secure. The existing Decent Homes Standard however is not the right vehicle with which to achieve this important goal within this tenure.
We are committed to working with the Government to ensure whatever standards expected of the sector are proportionate, fit for purpose and can be properly enforced.
Without this, criminal landlords will continue to undermine the reputation of the vast majority of responsible landlords doing the right thing.”
About the Author
Ben Beadle is chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), the UK’s largest trade body for landlords.
A landlord himself since the age of 20, Ben started out as property manager before working his way up through the ranks at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).
He was then Operations Director at property management business Touchstone before overseeing the merger of the National Residential Landlords Association (NLA) and Residential Landlords Association (RLA) to create the new trade body earlier this year.
His key aims as head of the organisation are to strengthen the voice of landlords in Westminster and Cardiff, to improve the reputation of landlords in the media and to support members through information, training and accreditation.
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