Report: Safe and Decent Homes

By: Marcus McPhillips  Published: December 2014


This report sets out the extent of poor conditions in the private rented sector and puts forward solutions to drive up standards and ensure everyone can access a decent, affordable, secure private rented home.

Summary

The private rented sector has almost doubled in size in the last decade and there are now more than 9 million private renters in England. People are now renting for longer and nearly a third of renters expect to be renting for the rest of their lives. A third of privately rented homes however fail to meet the government's Decent Homes Standards. Our research found that over six in ten renters (61%) have experienced at least one of the following problems in the past 12 months in their homes: damp, mould, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestations and gas leaks. In its current state, the private rental market does not function to ensure that homes are let in a decent condition 

Greater consumer power, more professional landlords, better informed and better resourced local authorities would all help the market to function more effectively and ensure that the private renter sector provides safe and decent homes.

Shelter is calling for:

Improved renter's consumer bargaining power  

  • Legislation to protect renters from retaliatory evictions
  • Improvements to the evictions process, making landlords and renters more aware of their rights and responsibilities.
  • A legal duty to be placed on local councils to provide a tenancy relations service, which can mediate between landlords and renters when problems arise.
  • Reinstate legal aid for issues of disrepair.
  • Amend the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) to ensure all homes are fit for human habitation.

Improve skills and knowledge in the sector

  • The introduction of a national register of landlords. This would require landlords to undergo basic training on their rights and responsibilities. National registration would also provide local councils with basic information on private rented homes, and allow them to carry out their work more effectively.
  • Lenders should encourage landlords to carry out an assessment of the conditions of any homes purchased with a buy-to-let mortgage.

Improve the ability of local authorities to enforce the powers they have

  • Councils should be able to require that landlords license properties in areas where there is a high demand for homes, or conditions are particularly poor. The government should also provide more guidance and support to councils to allow them to introduce these schemes.
  • Local councils should consider setting up social lettings agencies, which can help improve conditions and make renting more affordable for renters.

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