Renters’ Reform Bill: applying the decent homes standard

17 August 2022

Daniel Greatrix, Principal Associate in the Property Disputes team, takes another look at the private rented sector reform proposals, including a drive to improve conditions in rented accommodation.

The Government’s plans to reform the private rented sector (PRS) have significant implications for both tenants and landlords

The white paper proposals ahead of the Renters’ Reform Bill aim to shift the balance between landlords and tenants.

We’ve already looked at plans to ban no-fault evictions and reform grounds for possession.

Today we turn the spotlight on three more potential changes: plans to introduce the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector, the introduction of a new property portal and the appointment of a private rented sector ombudsman.

Improving housing conditions by applying the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector.

The Decent Homes Standard is a standard that applies to the social rented sector. It requires homes to be;

  • free from category hazards (defined in the Housing Act 2004 and associated regulations),
  • in a reasonable state of repair,
  • have reasonably modern facilities and services and
  • provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.

The Government now intends for homes in the private rented sector to meet this standard. The white paper refers, in the longer term, to considering whether there is scope to introduce a system of regular, independent checks, possibly even an independent regulator for the private rented sector.

However, in the short term the focus is on ensuring local councils have the tools to enforce the standard and extends existing measures such as rent repayment orders to include non-decent homes.

New property portal and stronger enforcement powers for councils

The Government proposes to introduce a new digital property portal where all landlords will be required to register their properties. The Portal will then provide a single ‘front door’ for landlords to both learn about their legal responsibilities and also demonstrate their compliance.

The idea is that responsible landlords will be able to easily show they are compliant and this will help them attract good tenants, who will be able to carry out due diligence on their prospective landlords through the portal.

Equally, the portal will expose landlords who fail to comply with their obligations and this will assist Local Authorities take swift and efficient action. 

New private rented sector Ombudsman

The Government intends to introduce a new single government-approved Ombudsman that all private landlords in England will be required to join. The Ombudsman’s remit will be wide to include complaints about landlord behaviour and repairs not being carried out within a reasonable time. The Ombudsman will have a range of powers to include the power to compel a landlord to carry out repairs and to pay compensation of up to £25,000.

Use of the service will be free and it is intended will reduce the number of complaints that end up in court.

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