On 19 April 2018 the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee published a report on the private rented sector in which it said that the most vulnerable tenants need greater legal protections from retaliatory evictions, rent increases and harassment so they are fully empowered to pursue complaints about repairs and maintenance in their homes. The Committee supports the idea of a specialist housing court which it is hoped would provide a more accessible route to redress for tenants, but more details are required.
The Committee is calling on the Law Commission to undertake a review of Private Rented Sector legislation and has also proposed that the HHSRS should be replaced with a more straightforward set of quality standards. The current legislative framework is outdated and too complex. A new approach could bring clarity for tenants, landlords and local authorities.
The Report highlights that enforcement by local authorities is weak and inconsistent. Six out of ten councils have not prosecuted a single landlord in 2016. It is understood that the main problem faced by local authorities is the lack of resources. As such a new fund is recommended to support local authorities with enforcement and a recommendation that they publish their enforcement strategies online. There is a call for more robust actions including substantial fines and the confiscation of properties.
Finally, there is a recommendation that decisions to implement selective licensing schemes should be made more locally by those with a better understanding of local needs with the Secretary of State retaining a power to require local authorities to reconsider decisions.
The government has published a response to the report, but this focuses more on the Tenant Fees Bill and how this will improve the sector for tenants rather than addressing the Committee’s recommendations. Whether anything will come of this report is therefore yet to be seen however, if there are any updates we will put up a further post.