Standards & Quality

Summary

The private rented sector has seen increased regulation over the past two decades, as the proportion of households living in the sector now reaches 20 percent.

Standards in the PRS have improved signficantly but there remains a higher proportion of homes in a poor condition than in other tenures.

Our work in this area looks to improve standards whilst taking a proportionate approach to regulation which supports responsible landlords whilst taking appropriate action against criminal landlords flouting the law.

Topics in this section include:

Safety

Everyone should be confident that they have a safe home. It's a landlord's responsibility to provide a safe home for their tenants, to ensure the property is free of serious hazards and to maintain the condition of the property throughout the tenancy.

Our policy work in this area focuses on:

  • fire safety, including cladding
  • electrical safety
  • gas safety
  • the Housing Health and Safety Rating System
  • carbon monoxide.
  • the Decent Homes Standard

Our current projects include:

  • contributing to the development of new fire safety standards following the Grenfell Tower disaster
  • lobbying for updated guidance on fire safety for landlords
  • involvement in the review of HHSRS
  • monitoring the implementation of the new electrical installation safety standards
  • participating in the working group on carbon monoxide
  • producing a white paper on how to amend the Decent Homes Standard to work in the private rented sector.

Our previous major work in this area includes:

  • membership of the Electrical Safety Roundtable, an industry group advising the Government on the introduction of the electrical installation regulations
  • working on the development of the LACORS guidance on housing fire safety
  • contibuting to the development of the smoke alarm regulations.

The Decent Homes Standard in the PRS

The Government has proposed that the existing Decent Homes Standard should be extended to apply to the private rented sector, not just social housing.

This standard is something that the overwhelming majority of homes in the PRS already meet. The latest English Housing Survey estimated that 79% of homes meet the standard in the PRS, compared with 87% in the social housing sector. 

However, the Decent Homes Standard is designed with social housing in mind, where houses are more uniform in age and construction and includes some requirements that may not be achievable for older properties in the owner-occupier or private rented sectors. It also includes requirements setting out a maximum age for bathrooms and kitchens regardless of whether they are still fit for purpose.

Rather than transplanting the Decent Homes Standard in its current form to the PRS, the NRLA argues that the standard should be tailored so that it can be applied across all property types and bring together the 168 pieces of legislation already affecting it rather than introducing new requirements.

What is needed is a standard that simplifies the measures that already exist and can be easily understood by tenants and landlords alike.

Our proposals

Under our proposals, the Decent Homes Standard would improve the rental experience by providing tenants with an online property 'passport' that sets out how the property meets the Decent Homes Standard.

This would pull together the key existing requirements on standards in the PRS by certifying the property -

  • is free of category 1 hazards;
  • the property is secure;
  • is in a decent state of repair; and
  • meets the statutory energy efficiency requirements.

The passport would also allow landlords to certify the property has met safety requirements by including evidence of -

  • gas and electrical safety checks
  • working smoke and CO alarms
  • risk assessments for fire and legionella.

This passport could be accessed electronically and given to tenants at the outset of a tenancy to show compliance. Local authorities would have the power to do spot checks to ensure that the information provided is accurate.

This would bring together the key requirements that are already in place in the PRS, providing landlords and tenants with a clear explanation of how the landlord has complied with their obligations.

Decent Homes and the Private Rented Sector

Last updated: 24/05/2022 at 10:01 - 962.61 KB

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The Housing Health and Safety Rating System

The HHSRS system was created out of the 2004 Housing Act and the government defines it as:  

“…a risk-based evaluation tool to help local authorities identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings”. 

There are currently 29 different hazards with the HHSRS that are used when a local authority inspects a property. Each hazard is judged by the enforcement officer and ranked. If the hazard is deemed to be serious, it will be classified a ‘category 1 hazard’ and a process to resolve this will begin.  The local authority has a legal duty to resolve the issue. If the hazard is deemed to be ‘category 2’, that is, less serious, the local authority can still take action or propose a solution to the problem. They can also point out potential risks that exist in a property.

Our policy work

The lack of minimum standards or worked examples for HHSRS has led to criticism that it lacks clarity, meaning landlords effectively require an initial inspection by a local authority to assess their compliance; at which point, landlords may face additional costs through the service of enforcement notices.

Recognising this. the Government is currently in the process of reviewing the existing HHSRS legislation. We are working closely with the Government on this and recommend that the HHSRS -

  • be simplified so that landlords and tenants can understand the regulations more easily and comply proactively;
  • include worked examples and minimum standards for the HHSRS so landlords can have peace of mind the property is free of category 1 or 2 hazards.

The NRLA will continue to update our members as this review progresses.

Energy efficiency

Carbon emissions and energy efficiency are high on the politcal agenda. The UK Government has committed to reaching net-zero carbon by 2050, one of the most ambitious targets in the world. Decarbonisation of housing will play a significant part in achieving their goal, with around one-fifth of all emissions arising from the sector.

As well as requiring a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to rent out homes, landlords in England and Wales must comply with the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) in order to let a property. This currently requires a minimum E rating, unless the landlord has registered a valid exemption. The Government has consulted on raising this to a C rating by 2025 for new tenancies.

As with the current MEES, landlords will be able to apply for an exemption if they can show they have reached the cost cap or the energy efficiency work would cost more than the cap to perform. However, the cap consulted on is proposed to rise to £10,000.

Our policy

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) is supportive of the desire and need to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock. This will take a combination of improved design and construction practices, renovation of the fabric of existing buildings and the modification of household behaviour.

However, energy efficiency policy must recognise the challenges that landlords, particularly those with only one or two properties, face in making these improvements. Particularly if the policy could lead to a decrease in supply in the wider sector or in specific parts of the country. 

With that in mind we propose:

  • More targeted funding and financing for landlords that isn’t related to property value and doesn’t penalise those who have been proactive in taking measures; accounting for properties with features that make energy efficiency installations more challenging. Landlords who have been proactive in making investments to increase the EPC rating of their properties should not be prevented from accessing future funding and finance.  
  • Tapering the cost cap for MEES to reflect local market conditions. If costs of energy efficiency improvements are too high compared to the property's value, it risks reducing supply as landlords choose to leave the sector. We proposed a gradual taper from £5,000 to £10,000, taking into account the different rental values (and by implication, property values) across the country.
  • Reduce cost through tax efficiency. We are calling for energy efficiency measures carried out by a landlord to be considered as revenue expenditure and offset against tax at the point of spend as with repair and maintenance.  
  • Building Renovation Passports to replace EPC system to help owners access decision useful information to retrofit their homes. This will ensure there is accurate information about the measures already installed helping landlords identify what further works can be made to properties. This would ensure properties are correctly rated, with a clear trajectory for improvement, and benefit tenants in understanding their home.   

The NRLA paper on Greening the Private Rented Sector submitted to Ministers and civil servants

Last updated: 03/08/2021 at 14:18 - 370.05 KB

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Localis - Lagging Behind

Last updated: 25/10/2021 at 15:27 - 4.23 MB

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Energy efficiency - finance and funding for the road to Net Zero

Last updated: 15/12/2021 at 16:09 - 306.00 KB

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Regulation

Everyone deserves a right to live in a decent home and in most cases tenants do. However, there are a small number of criminal landlords who provide substandard, unsafe homes. These criminals are often the cause of people saying that the sector is unregulated but this could not be further from the truth. 

There are nearly 170 acts of parliament that create obligations on landlords, with local authorities responsible for enforcing most of these regulations. 

Our regulation work covers both national and local regulations. Find out more about our work with local Government.

Our policy

The NRLA argues that there -

  • should be a more strategic approach to regulation from Government, with a cohesive approach to the private rented sector across different policy areas.
  • is a need to update older legislation for the modern world. Much of the legislation that underpins landlord and tenant law was written before email and could be updated to allow for easier use of electronic communication. It could also be adapted to reflect how tenants choose to live with friends rather than family for longer by making it easier to replace a joint tenant. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act is already doing this and thought should be given to a similar approach in England.
  • needs to be improvements in local authority enforcement levels rather than the scope of enforcement. Local authorities already have extensive powers to improve property conditions, but they are not using them. This, combined with the property passport in our proposals around the Decent Homes Standard, could serve as an alternative to discretionary licensing.

Not under-regulated but under-enforced: the legislation affecting private landlords in England

Last updated: 02/07/2021 at 09:59 - 1.84 MB

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Related Links

Licensing and local government resources

Research on civil penalty usage by local authorities

Research on inspections and notices served by local authorities