Feature: A Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper and the impact on the Private rented Sector
By Stuart Moore, UK Sales Manager at KPR
On the 16th June 2022 the now departed Secretary of state for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove MP released the Governments highly anticipated White Paper ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ . Setting out the Government’s vision and determination to halve the number of poor-quality homes by 2030.
As part of the report the government has outlined their plans to introduce a legally binding Decent Homes Standard through legislation to the Private rented sector in what would be an industry first, under the Renters’ Reform Bill.
The Government state and rightly so, that everyone has a right to a decent home and not be forced to live in properties that are inadequately heated, unsafe or unhealthy. Yet they estimate that more than a staggering 2.8 million Citizens are paying to live in homes that are not fit for the century we live in.
Why is the Government acting?
The report states that the Private Rented Sector (PRS) accounts for some 4.4 million Households equivalent to 19%. Whilst there has been significant improvement in the last decade there still remain over a 1/5 of privately rented homes (21%) that are classed as non-decent, and shockingly there are over half a million properties (12%) that are deemed to have ‘category 1’ hazards which pose an imminent risk to renters Health & Safety.
What do the Government define ‘decent’ as in the white paper?
The new minimum standards for private rented homes that the Government are proposing define ‘decent’ as ensuring they are free from the most serious health and safety hazards such as “fall risks, fire risks or carbon monoxide poisoning. The report states “it is unacceptable that hazardous conditions should be present in people’s homes when they can be fixed with something as simple as providing a smoke detector or a handrail to a staircase”.
This means that Landlords have to ensure that rented homes do NOT fall into disrepair, making sure to address problems before they deteriorate and require more expensive works to be undertaken.
Kitchens and Bathrooms will need to be located correctly, adequate and where possible not too old. Landlords must also ensure that the tenants have clean and useable facilities, which should be updated when they reach the end of their lives. Homes will also need to be warm and dry. “It is not acceptable that some renters are living in homes that are too cold in winter, too hot in summer, or damp and mouldy”.
The government have also committed to upgrade as many homes as possible to EPC band C by 2030, where cost effective, practical and most importantly affordable. This is all part of the government’s ‘net zero’ target to largely eliminate emissions from our housing stock by 2050.
Local councils will be given new power to manage their local housing market and enforce the new ‘decent homes standard’ and crack down on landlords who are not complying, whilst protecting the reputation of responsible landlords.
They will consider how best to support good landlords, including phased introductions of reforms where needed.
In the longer term, they are interested in whether there is scope to introduce a system of regular, independent checks to make sure that tenants are confident in a property’s condition; exploring costs and benefits of an independent regulator for the PRS and whether existing legislation should be consolidated further.
What does the current ‘Decent Homes Standard’ cover?
The current standards and its ratings are under review, with this review due to close in Autumn 2022. The current standards cover ALL social housing, excluding shared ownership and leasehold properties. It currently outlines four criteria that a property must meet to be classified as decent – these are criteria that private rental properties may have to comply with in the future.
Under the decent homes standard for social housing a property is considered decent if it meets the following four criteria;
- It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
- It is in a reasonable state of repair
- It has reasonably modern facilities and services
- It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
How are properties currently assessed?
Properties are currently assessed by using the Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS) to ensure that they are free from serious hazards.
There are a total of 29 hazards to be assessed under this system. Each hazard is given a score. Those with a score over 1000 will be deemed serious as they put the tenant’s health and safety at risk and won’t meet the minimum standards criteria.
After the assessment is carried out, a HHSRS score is calculated for the property. When calculating the score, a housing officer will consider:
- The chance of harm
- How serious that harm would be
- Any extra threat to children or old people
It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
Properties that fail to meet this criterion are those containing one or more hazards assessed as serious (category 1) under HHSRS
It is in a reasonable state of repair
Properties that will fail to meet this criterion are those where either; 1 or more of the key building components are old and because of their condition need major repair or replacing, or 2 or more of the other budling components are old and because of their condition need replacing or major repair.
It has reasonably modern facilities and services
Properties which will fail to meet this criterion are those which lack 3 or more of the following:
- A reasonably modern kitchen (20 years old or less
- A kitchen having adequate space and layout
- A reasonably modern bathroom (30 years old or less)
- An appropriately located bathroom and WC
- Adequate insulation against external noise
- Adequate size and layout of common areas for blocks of flats
A home lacking two or fewer of the above would still be classed as decent, therefore it is not necessary to modernise kitchens and bathrooms if a home meets the remaining criteria.
It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
This criterion requires dwellings to have both effective insulation and efficient heating. It should be noted that, whilst dwellings meeting criteria b, c and d are likely also to meet criterion a, some Category 1 hazards may remain to be addressed. For example, a dwelling meeting criterion d may still contain a Category 1 damp or cold hazard.
Properties need to have efficient heating and sufficient insulation to meet this criterion. The heating system needs to be able to heat two rooms in the house and even if the system covers the majority of the property, landlords need to ensure it is warm enough under the HHSRS.
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (FFHH)
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 received royal ascent on 20th December 2018 and the Housing Health and Safety rating system (HHSRS) was incorporated into the act.