A BBC report over the weekend cast a gloomy and critical eye over the private rental sector, based on a report from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). The report says that “One million rented homes in England ‘are dangerous’”, further adding that the number will rise because of changes in housing benefit and legal aid.
However, the government has abandoned any plans for a national landlord register, and has believed that too much red tape will be worse, not better for tenants. (See Grant Shapps’ comments).
Legislative protection of the health and safety of tenants exists in plenty. In addition to the landlords repairing obligations under the LTA 1985, any agent will be aware of the powers of local authorities to enforce standards under the HHSRS: for example there is no legal obligation on a landlord to take away polystyrene tiles or to put a banister on stairs – but an environmental health officer and local authority has the power to insist this is done. Such powers exist in respect of owner-occupiers too.
Further we have had agents report to us that despite the fact that it is compulsory for EPC ratings to be included in written information given to prospective tenants, some local authorities have advised that they are not acting where this is not done.
To predict a future of rogue landlords rampaging over the rights of tenants living in derelict properties is to ignore the hard work and the substantial self-regulation that landlord groups, bodies like NFOPP and NALS and many landlords and agents themselves, as well as local authorities, put in to make sure that people get decent affordable housing. The CIEH itself reports on how local authority initiatives are helping to raise standards in housing.
The large number of the queries we get to our helpline service regarding health and safety and repairing obligations is testimony to the fact that agents and landlords do want to know their obligations and seek to uphold them.