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Government response to Housing Committee report gives insight into future changes

Friday 06 July 2018

On 3 July 2018, the UK Government released their response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry report into the role of local authorities in the private rented sector.

The report from MPs gives several recommendations to the Government and the responses give us an insight into what is going to happen next. 

The Government has already acted to ensure that all letting agents are registered and are members of a client money protection scheme to provide assurance to tenants and landlords that their agent is meeting minimum standards. Through the Housing and Planning Act 2016 local authorities have the tools they need to act against rogue landlords and agents to protect tenants.

On 2 July 2018, the Government launched a consultation to seek views on the benefits and barriers of longer tenancies in the private rented sector in England.

The Government’s response to the Housing Committees’ recommendations provides a useful insight into Government thinking on the private rented sector and where they believe there is need for change:

Sector reform

The Government intends to require private landlords to join a redress scheme to ensure tenants who do not use an agent have access to independent redress without going to the courts.

New specialist housing court

The Government is working with the Ministry of Justice to understand any issues with the current system and the experience of users of the courts and the tribunal, including the time it takes for cases to be completed. This work will inform the Government’s consideration of the options for improvement.

They also intend to publish a call for evidence later in the year to gather views from the judiciary, landlords and tenants on options for structural reform to the courts and tribunal services, as well as to explore user experiences of the County Courts and Housing Tribunals further. The Government will set out detailed proposals once they have analysed the responses to this call for evidence.

Electrical Safety

The Government have consulted on the recommendations made by the Electrical Safety Standards Working Group and responses to the consultation are currently being analysed. It is good practice to carry out checks on electrical installations at least every five years and the Government will consider whether this should be made a legal requirement. It is expected that the Government’s response to the consultation will be announced in the Autumn.

Review into Carbon Monoxide alarms

On 30 April 2018 it was announced that the Government would carry out a review of existing legislation on carbon monoxide alarms in the home, including the legislation that applies specifically to the private rented sector. The review will consider the evidence base to establish whether the legislation remains fit for purpose and whether there should be a blanket requirement to install alarms for all methods of heating, including gas and oil. The terms of reference for this review will be announced in due course.

Deregulation Act 2015

The Government do not see the merit in reviewing the protections within the Deregulation Act in isolation, but they do want to take a strategic approach to the concerns raised by the Committee. Therefore, the Government will link the effectiveness of the retaliatory eviction provisions to the work they are taking forward to improve redress and security across the private rented sector.

Reform to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

The Government have said that they recognise that the methodology and associated guidance for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System is now several years old and will carefully consider whether it needs to be updated. In doing so, the Government will reflect upon who is best placed, and has the necessary expertise, to carry out such a review.

Law Commission to undertake a review into the sector

The Government believe the Law Commission could provide useful insight into the private rented sector. Considering the Committee’s recommendation, the Government will now discuss this further with the Law Commission to ascertain what support they could provide in this area.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill

The Government fully supports the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill and we are working closely with Karen Buck MP to help ensure it successfully completes the remaining Parliamentary stages.

Helping tenants spot hazards

In due course, the Government expect to provide straightforward guidance for tenants.

Enhancing enforcement

The Government believe that allowing local authorities to retain financial penalties is an important source of funding for future enforcement. They are working with local authorities to understand any additional resource needs, including options for funding informal enforcement activity.

They will also work with local authorities to encourage them to publish their private rented sector enforcement strategies and are running several events around the country to bring together local authority officers to focus on the private rented sector landscape and share their experience and knowledge.

Review of selective licensing

In their response to the Committee the Government acknowledge that a blanket licensing of all landlords may impose unnecessary costs on responsible landlords, which would be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents.

The Government will shortly be undertaking a review of selective licensing to understand its effectiveness as a local enforcement tool. The Government will then act on the evidence from this review to ensure licensing is delivering for local authorities, landlords and tenants.