As recent reports have shown, private renters regularly face problems with the safety and fitness of their homes. Recognising this, the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently conducting a review into property conditions in the private rented sector and policy to improve standards.
To read Generation Rent’s submission, click here.
Although the terms of the review are narrow, we were able to put forward some proposals that would genuinely improve the experiences of those private renters who do face disrepair, hazards and unsafe housing. In our submission we supported Shelter’s calls for limits on section 21 in cases of hazards in the home, to ensure that renters no longer risk retaliatory eviction if they complain about conditions.
We also called for fair redress for those who suffer illegal eviction, through rent repayment orders that provide a genuine deterrent for landlords and allow renters to be compensated where they have been mistreated in this way.
In terms of safety and prevention of accidents, we called for the mandatory installation of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in all private rented housing. Landlords should not be able to rent out homes that are not properly protected, and such a requirement would come at little cost to them anyway. On the same principle we also backed Electrical Safety First's calls for mandatory periodic inspections of electrical installations in private rented homes.
Finally, we felt that landlord licensing could be widened, rather than narrowed, so that local authority schemes could be connected with a nationwide register. Licensing needs to be universal in order to allow for authorities to focus on rogue landlords and know about the sector they are tackling. It would be a non-onerous requirement for good landlords and would allow simplicity in standards – bad landlords could simply be struck off a register. It would change the culture around renting, allowing tenants to make sure their landlord was licensed and compliant, rather than just entering a contract hoping that this was the case. Sign our petition for a national landlord register here.
Altogether, our submission states that legislation is more effective than voluntary schemes in improving industries and changing behaviour. Renters need to know they are legally protected from bad landlords and voluntary solutions will never see the whole market changed. Housing is an essential need, and the ‘choice’ of renters should always be amongst homes of a certain standard.
We now await the department’s response to the evidence submitted and hope that this can signal the start of a change in attitude towards the private rented sector. A regulated sector is essential to guarantee that has everyone has a decent place to live.