Submission: CLG Committee inquiry Role of Local Authorities in the PRS

By: Vicky Pearlman  Published: July 2018


Property conditions in the PRS are worse than in any other sector. Shelter gave written and oral evidence to the CLG Select Committee inquiry into the role of local authorities in improving standards in, and access to, the PRS.

Summary

Property conditions in the PRS are worse than in any other sector. As the cost of home ownership rises and the lack of social housing endures, the private rented sector is playing an increasingly important role in housing people. It is vital that these homes are safe and decent.

We have welcomed recent changes to legislation covering conditions in the PRS but, taken as a whole, it is piecemeal, out-dated, complex, dependent upon tenure and patchily enforced.

Shelter is actively supporting the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Standards) Bill, which brings together existing, and updates defunct, fitness legislation and incorporates the HHSRS into one test of fitness that will, ultimately, be decided by the Courts. The Bill will enable tenants to pursue their own action against landlords to get repairs done and conditions improved, without having to rely on over-stretched local council enforcement teams.

Even as their powers have increased, the capacity and resources of local councils to continue to improve standards in the PRS has reduced, in the face of funding reductions and increasing demand. Their increased powers must be coupled with increased resources for PRS enforcement teams.

Licensing schemes can help councils to understand their local private rented sector and the landlords within it, and help them to work with landlords to promote higher quality accommodation.

Complaint mechanisms for private renters are not fit for purpose. Lack of consumer powers and security of tenure means that tenants have very little ability to complain about their conditions, for fear of being evicted and becoming homeless. It is vital that work to prevent homelessness should go hand in hand with enforcement

Reinstating Legal Aid for disrepair issues (and potentially wider ‘fitness’ issues if the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Standards) Bill becomes law) would go a long way to redress the power imbalance between landlords and tenants.

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