A report from the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said despite there being 168 pieces of legislation within the PRS, there is “no single standard applied to all units of accommodation” or codified resource to refer to.
The report said: “Despite the volume of regulation in place, the NRLA is aware that the system is viewed to have failed those on the margins of the PRS.
“This perceived failure is due to two notable flaws; a lack of transparency and a lack of enforcement, both of which are intrinsically linked.”
The NRLA said rental regulation was poorly understood and property standards will only improve when they are embraced by the sector and understood by households.
The government has proposed extending the Decent Homes Standards beyond the social sector and to the private rental sector.
The Decent Homes Standards requires any dwelling to fulfil the four criteria:
- it must meet the current statutory minimum standard for housing;
- it must be in a reasonable state of repair;
- it must have reasonable facilities that are fit for purpose, and
- it must provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
NRLA said requiring private rented homes to meet a minimum and reasonable state of repair would be “unproblematic” and simply reinforce existing PRS regulations.
However, it said demanding homes to have reasonable facilities may be unsuitable for private rented homes as the age, nature and layout of private homes tend to differ from social homes.
“Social housing stock also tends to be self-contained, and purpose built, compared to the shared facilities and re-purposed properties common in the private sector,” it added.
It said any standard introduced would need to be applicable to all private rented homes and failure to so would “inevitably lead to barriers to compliance and necessitate a raft of exemptions which would reduce transparency for households”.
The NRLA also said the Decent Homes Standard did not address an appropriate and accessible means of demonstrating compliance.
It said: “At present registered providers are expected to audit their housing stock and plan maintenance accordingly, whilst private landlords must provide prescribed evidence at the start of every tenancy, although not necessarily in a consistent or comprehensive form.”
Ultimately, the NRLA proposed that adopting headline standards and introducing a property logbook would meet this need and increase tenant confidence, while making enforcement more straightforward without increasing burdens or costs.
The body proposed a Decent Homes Rental Standard, with the criteria: all rental properties must meet the statutory minimum standard for housing and in so doing must be free of category one hazards; all rental properties must be in a decent state of repair, and all rental properties must meet the statutory minimum for energy efficiency.
It noted that improvements had already been made, as the proportion of homes with serious hazards had halved from 24.2 per cent in 2010/2011 to 11.7 per cent in 2020/2021. Furthermore, rented homes with low energy efficiency ratings had dropped from 45 per cent to 14 per cent during the same period.
A property passport
The NRLA posited the creation of an online property passport, which would be a document certifying that a property met all legal standards. It would list improvements made to properties and contain copies of all safety certificates.
It said the passport would allow enforcement agencies to verify that safety requirements had been met and highlight areas in need of attention, or landlords who fail to comply.
The NRLA said landlords were “let down” by a failure on the part of local authorities to enforce powers and tackle rogue and criminal landlords.
It said the government needed to have better resourced council enforcement teams and make use of available data to identify landlords.
A Freedom of Information request made by the NRLA found just 47 per cent of local authorities in England issued civil penalties relating to poorly behaved landlords and 40 per cent of councils that issued penalties had only delivered between one and five over the past three years.
Further, two thirds of English councils have not prosecuted any landlords in the last three years. It said overall, just 20 local authorities were responsible for 77 per cent of all successful prosecutions.
Ben Beadle (pictured), chief executive of the NRLA said: “We want to make it easier for the vast majority of compliant landlords to prove to tenants what they already do, namely providing decent and safe housing. Those who do not would have no option other than to shape up or ship out.
“This would be based on proving compliance with existing laws, not creating new regulations. With almost 170 laws affecting the private rented sector it can hardly be dubbed the wild west. What is needed is better understanding and enforcement of this existing legislation.”