Govt to enforce minimum standard on all rental homes

Govt to enforce minimum standard on all rental homes
Levelling up secretary, Michael Gove

The government intends to apply a minimum standard, called the ‘Decent Homes Standard’, to “all homes” in the private rental sector “for the first time ever”.

In the past, this standard only applied to landlords who own social housing - a sector which is currently reviewing the standard to understand if it’s fit for purpose.

The change is part of a ‘levelling up’ white paper published by the UK’s levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, today (February 2). 

His department has set a target for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50 per cent in the next nine years, with the biggest improvements happening in the lowest performing areas.

Some are concerned this minimum standard is not fit for purpose. Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said the government’s existing Decent Homes Standard “is not the right vehicle” to ensure the safety of tenants.

The standard is under review until at least the summer of this year, according to the government’s latest announcement.

 “At present, this standard, designed for the social rented sector, does not reflect many of the differences between it and the private rented sector,” said Beadle. “This includes the types and age of properties in each.”

Beadle said his trade body will work with the government to ensure whatever standards expected of the sector are “proportionate, fit for purpose and can be properly enforced”. He added: “Without this, criminal landlords will continue to undermine the reputation of the vast majority of responsible landlords doing the right thing.”

Alongside a minimum standard for all, Gove also announced Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions are to be “abolished”, a law which has allowed private landlords to repossess their properties without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant.

The government consulted on this legislation back in 2019, prompting calls to bring forward the Section 21 abolition to help tenants during the pandemic. 

Initially expected in the autumn of last year, the government pushed back any updates on rental reform to 2022, which is why they are now appearing in Gove’s levelling up strategy.

“We will consult on introducing a landlords register, and will set out plans for a crackdown on rogue landlords - making sure fines and bans stop repeat offenders leaving renters in terrible conditions,” his department said.

During the pandemic, the government temporarily eased the Section 21 notice, putting a six-month pause on court possession proceedings between March and September 2020.

It then increased the notice landlords were required to provide tenants before eviction to six months in most cases between August 2020 and May 2021.

By 2030, Gove also intends to establish “a secure path to [home] ownership” for renters, with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas of the UK.

“Levelling Up and this white paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery,” said Gove.