Consultation on Decent Homes Standard announced

The Government have announced a consultation on potential changes to the Decent Home Standard (DHS).  This consultation will last for 6 weeks, from Friday 2 September 2022 to Friday 14 October 2022, and can be submitted via the online survey don’t miss the deadline to respond.

More information can be seen here.

Note that to date the DHS has only applied to social housing, but in the recent White Paper it has been proposed that it will apply to all rental property.  Being as the current standard is very vague, for example a property must be ‘in a reasonable state of repair’ and have ‘reasonably modern facilities and services’ it is obvious that a review is long overdue.

There are 62 questions, which can be seen below, and can either be answered in hard copy form to:

PRS DHS Consultation
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
3rd Floor, 2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Or by taking the online survey.

 

 

List of questions in the survey:

  1. In which capacity are you completing these questions?
  • Tenant
  • Landlord operating as an individual or group of individuals (e.g. couple)
  • Landlord operating on behalf of an organisation
  • Letting agent
  • Local council
  • Tenant representative group
  • Landlord representative group
  • Financial institution
  • Industry body
  • Other (please specify) [free text]
  1. If responding on behalf of an organisation, please specify which organisation:
  • [free text]
  • N/A
  1. If responding as an individual, where do you live? If you are responding as part of an organisation, where are you primarily based?
  • North East
  • North West
  • Yorkshire and the Humber
  • East Midlands
  • West Midlands
  • East of England
  • South West
  • South East
  • London
  • Spread evenly across the UK/National organisation
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Landlord and letting agents only: Where are the properties you let primarily located?
  • North East
  • North West
  • Yorkshire and the Humber
  • East Midlands
  • West Midlands
  • East of England
  • South West
  • South East
  • London
  • Spread evenly across multiple regions
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Landlord only: How many rental properties do you own or manage?
  • 1
  • 2-4
  • 5-9
  • 10-49
  • 50-99
  • 100+
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Landlord only: Which of these options best reflects how you would describe yourself?
  • Professional landlord making a living from a portfolio of rental properties
  • Buy-to-let landlord whose properties are an investment
  • “Accidental” landlord who became a landlord due to external circumstances (e.g. inheriting a property)
  • Short-term landlord who rents out a property or properties only at certain times
  • Other
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Tenant only: Is anyone living in your property under the age of 5?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Tenant only: Is anyone living in your property over the age of 65?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Tenant only: Who do you live with? (Choose all that are applicable)
  • Alone
  • Partner
  • Children
  • Parents or in-laws
  • Grandparents
  • Other family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
  • Friends I knew prior to my tenancy
  • People you did not know prior to your tenancy
  • The landlord
  • Other
  1. Tenant only: Which of the following best describes how your tenancy is managed?
  • I communicate directly with the landlord about any issues with my tenancy (individual)
  • I communicate directly with the landlord about any issues with my tenancy (company/organisation)
  • I communicate with a letting or management agency about any issues with my tenancy
  • Unsure/other
  • Prefer not to say
  1. Tenant only: Thinking about the last 12 months, approximately what was your total gross household income (i.e. before tax and deductions)?
  • [£0 – £XXXX]
  • Prefer not to say

1. Introduction

Everyone deserves to live in a safe and secure home. Most private rented sector landlords and agents take their responsibilities seriously and treat their tenants fairly, but a minority let homes that are unsafe or not of a reasonable standard. Over a fifth of the 4.4 million households that rent privately endure poor conditions and lack security and control over the homes they pay to live in.

Significant achievements have been made over the last decade for renters, including key legislation introduced such as the Housing and Planning Act 2016 introducing more enforcement tools for councils, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019. However, it is wrong that in 21st century Britain, over a fifth of tenants are still spending a third of their income on substandard housing, and that the reputation of the majority of landlords, who make sure their properties are safe and decent, is being tarnished by those who do not.

Poor-quality housing holds people back and prevents neighbourhoods from thriving. Damp, cold homes can make people ill, cause respiratory conditions in older people and asthma and infections in children. Children in cold homes are twice as likely to suffer from a variety of respiratory problems[footnote 1] and homes that overheat in hot summers also affect people’s health. In the private rented sector alone, hazardous conditions cost the NHS around £340 million a year[footnote 2]. We also know that these impacts are not experienced equally across the country. There is geographical disparity with the highest rates of substandard homes in Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the North West[footnote 3].

There has been good progress over the last decade, with the proportion of substandard dwellings in the private rented sector falling from 37.2% in 2010 to 21.0% in 2020, but it is unacceptable that some renters still live in poor quality homes. That is why The Levelling Up the UK white paper sets an ambition to halve the number of substandard homes in all rented sectors by 2030, with the biggest improvements in the lowest-performing areas. We are also introducing new laws in the Social Housing Regulation Bill to drive up the standards of social housing and give residents a voice to make sure they get the homes they deserve.

On 16 June 2022, we published A fairer private rented sector – a landmark white paper for the private rented sector – which sets out this government’s commitment to introduce a legally binding ‘Decent Homes Standard’ to the private rented sector for the first time. This would improve parity with the social rented sector where there has been a Decent Homes Standard in place since 2001. The system would also be fairer for good landlords by making sure those who do not treat their tenants fairly are no longer able to get away with it.

We have already undertaken a range of stakeholder engagement, running a number of in-depth discussions with key organisations on how we apply a Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector. The private rented sector is diverse, so it is essential that any new standard meets the varied needs of tenants and landlords. It is also important to understand the impacts the Standard may have on the market, to mitigate any potential risks.

This consultation builds on that engagement and seeks further views on how to apply and enforce the Standard in the private rented sector where it is not already being met. We really welcome views and feedback on the proposals and questions contained in this consultation and would like to thank you in advance for your input.

2. Existing standards in the private rented sector

The Housing Act 2004 places a duty on local councils to take enforcement action against landlords if they identify seriously hazardous conditions in a rented home. Councils use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, a risk assessment tool, to assess hazards in residential properties. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System currently sets out 29 hazards, including fire, damp, cold, trips and falls. A Housing Health and Safety Rating System assessment categorises hazards as either category 1, those that pose an imminent risk to health, or category 2, hazards that are serious but unlikely to cause direct harm in the near future. Councils must take action if they identify category 1 hazards and can also decide to take action for category 2 hazards.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 requires all landlords to ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. This means that properties must be free of hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. Where a landlord fails to do so, tenants can take action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation. The remedies available to the tenant are an order by the court requiring the landlord to take action to reduce or remove the hazard, and/or damages to compensate them for having to live in a property which was not fit for human habitation.

There are also specific requirements for houses in multiple occupation, where a property is rented out by 3 or more people who are not from one ‘household’ (e.g. a family). Management regulations place duties on the managers and occupiers of all houses in multiple occupation and include safety measures, water supply, safe electrical and gas systems, maintaining common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances, maintaining living accommodation and suitable waste disposal. These regulations recognise that houses in multiple occupation are often occupied by the most vulnerable people in our society and have a higher risk of fire or overcrowding in properties that were often not built for multiple occupation.

Larger houses in multiple occupation, those occupied by 5 or more people in 2 or more households who share facilities such as a kitchen or bathroom, must be licensed by the local council. In some areas, local councils require landlords to hold a licence to let out smaller houses in multiple occupation (‘additional licensing’) or all rented properties in an area (‘selective licensing’).

There are, additionally, further requirements on landlords regarding energy efficiency, electrical safety, gas safety and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

3. The Decent Homes Standard

Background

Since 2001, the Decent Homes Standard has played a key role in setting a minimum quality standard for homes in the social rented sector. Since the introduction of the Decent Homes Standard in the social rented sector, the proportion of homes that do not meet the Standard has reduced from 39% in 2001 to 13% in 2020. In the private rented sector, the Decent Homes Standard is not a regulatory standard and whilst there has been good progress over the last decade, with the proportion of dwellings that do not meet the Standard falling from 37.2% in 2010 to 21.0% in 2020, there is still more to be done to ensure tenants can live in safe, decent homes.

This section sets out the proposed Decent Homes Standard to be applied to the private rented sector. This standard is broadly consistent with the existing standard in the social rented sector but includes adjustments to reflect the specific circumstances of the private rented sector, specifically removing the requirement for kitchens and bathrooms to be of a certain age and reflecting the existing requirement to meet minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector. We are conscious that property types in the private rented sector tend to be more diverse than the social rented sector, and we are committed to ensuring the Standard and its enforcement suits the varied needs of the sector.

Further modest adjustments to the Standard may be required to achieve this aim and ensure the Standard sits comfortably alongside the regime for enforcing the duty on landlords to meet the Standard (our proposal for this is set out in the “enforcement” section of the consultation). Over a longer period, we have also committed to a review of the Decent Homes Standard. Further details on this will be set out in due course.

Proposed standard for the private rented sector

A decent home in the PRS must meet the following 4 criteria:

  1. It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
    b. It is in a reasonable state of repair
    c. It has reasonable facilities and services; and
    d. It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

Criterion A: It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing

Background on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System

As set out above, the current statutory minimum standard is that properties must be free from the most serious ‘category 1’ hazards, as assessed using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System is currently under review, which will conclude towards the end of 2022. The aim of the review is to make the tool easier to use and understand. The review is looking at how the Housing Health and Safety Rating System risk assessment tool works, rather than what makes a hazard at the category 1 or category 2 level, which is set out in regulation. This means that the review will not result in a change to criterion A of the Decent Homes Standard.

Criterion B: It is in a reasonable state of repair

  • Dwellings which fail to meet this criterion are those where either:
    • one or more of the key building components are old and, because of their condition, need replacing or major repair; or
    • two or more of the other building components are old and, because of their condition, need replacing or major repair.
  • A building component can only fail to satisfy this criterion by being old and requiring replacing or repair. A component cannot fail this criterion based on age alone.

Building components

Building components are the structural parts of a dwelling (e.g. wall structure, roof structure), other external elements (e.g. roof covering, chimneys) and internal services and amenities (e.g. kitchens, heating systems). A full list of building components is set out below. Key building components are those which, if in poor condition, could have an immediate impact on the integrity of the building and cause further deterioration in other components. They are the external components plus internal components that have potential safety implications and include:

  • external walls; roof structure and covering; windows/doors; chimneys;
  • central heating appliances;
  • gas fires; storage heaters; plumbing; and electrics.

Lifts are not considered to be a key component unless the lift or the lift shafts have a direct effect upon the integrity of the building.

If any of these components are old and need replacing, or require immediate major repair, then the dwelling is not in a reasonable state of repair and remedial action is required.

Other building components are those that have a less immediate impact on the integrity of the dwelling. Their combined effect is therefore considered, with a dwelling not in a reasonable state of repair if 2 or more are old and need replacing or require immediate major repair.

Old and in poor condition

A component is defined as ‘old’ if it is older than its standard lifetime. Components are in poor condition if they need major work, either full replacement or major repair. The definitions used for different components are set out below.

One or more key components, or 2 or more other components, must be both old and in poor condition for the dwelling to fail to meet the Standard on grounds of disrepair. Components that are old but in good condition or in poor condition but not old would not, in themselves, cause the dwelling to fail the Standard.

If a building component needs to be replaced before it reaches the end of its expected life, it has failed early. Unless a serious ‘category 1’ hazard exists or the property is in disrepair, this does not mean the dwelling is failing to meet the Standard. Landlords should, however, deal with such an issue when they become aware of it to ensure the property does not fail to meet the Standard in the future.

Where the disrepair is of a component affecting a block of flats, the flats that are classed as not meeting the Standard are those directly affected by the disrepair.

Technical information to support criterion B

Table 1 shows the component lifetimes within the disrepair criterion to assess whether the building components are ‘old’.

Table 1: Component lifetimes used in the disrepair criterion (in years)

Building components (key components marked*) Houses and bungalows All flats in blocks of below 6 storeys All flats in blocks of 6 or more storeys
Wall structure* 80 80 80
Lintels* 60 60 60
Brickwork (spalling)* 30 30 30
Wall finish* 60 60 30
Roof structure* 50 30 30
Roof finish* 50 30 30
Chimney* 50 50 N/A
Windows* 40 30 30
External doors* 40 30 30
Kitchen 30 30 30
Bathrooms 40 40 40
Heating central heating gas boiler* 15 15 15
Heating central heating distribution system 40 40 40
Heating other* 30 30 30
Electrical systems* 30 30 30

Table 2 sets out the definitions used within the disrepair criterion to identify whether building components are ‘in poor condition’.

It is usually appropriate to repair a component that is in poor condition unless:

  • the component is sufficiently damaged that it is impossible to repair;
  • the component is unsuitable, and would be even it were repaired, either because the material has deteriorated or because the component was never suitable;
  • (for external components) even if the component were repaired now, it would still need to be replaced within 5 years.

Table 2: Definition of ‘poor condition’ used in disrepair criterion

Wall structure Replace 10% or more or repair 30% or more
Wall finish Replace/ repoint/ renew 50% or more
Chimneys 1 chimney need partial rebuilding or more
Roof structure Replace 10% or more or strengthen 30% or more
Roof covering Replace or isolated repairs to 50% or more
Windows Replace at least one window or repair/ replace sash or member to least 2 (excluding easing sashes, reglazing painting)
External doors Replace at least one
Kitchen Major repair or replace 3 or more items out of the 6 (cold water drinking supply, hot water, sink, cooking provision, cupboards, worktop)
Bathroom Major repairs or replace 2 or more items (bath/shower, wash hand basin, WC)
Electrical system Replace or major repair to system
Central heating appliance Replace or major repair
Central heating distribution Replace or major repair
Storage heaters Replace or major repair

Criterion C: It has reasonable facilities and services

A dwelling is considered not to meet this criterion if it lacks any of the following facilities:

  • a kitchen with adequate space and layout;
  • an appropriately located bathroom and WC;
  • adequate external noise insulation; and
  • adequate size and layout of common entrance areas for blocks of flats.

More specifically, in line with the way the Standard has been measured in the English Housing Survey for many years, this means:

  • A kitchen failing on adequate space and layout would be one that was too small to contain all the required items (sink, cupboards, cooker space, worktops, etc.) appropriate to the size of the dwelling;
  • An inappropriately located bathroom and WC is one where the main bathroom or WC is located in a bedroom or accessed through a bedroom (unless the bedroom is not used or the dwelling is for a single person or ‘household[footnote 4]. A dwelling would also fail if the main WC is external or located on a different floor to the nearest wash hand basin, or if a WC without a wash hand basin opens on to a kitchen in an inappropriate area, for example next to the food preparation area;
  • Inadequate insulation from external airborne noise would be where there are problems with, for example, traffic (rail, road and aeroplanes) or factory noise. Landlords should ensure reasonable insulation from these problems through installation of appropriate acoustic glazing in line with the current Building Regulations; and
  • Inadequate size and layout of common entrance areas for blocks of flats would be one with insufficient room to manoeuvre easily, for example where there are narrow access ways with awkward corners and turnings, steep staircases, inadequate landings, absence of handrails, low headroom, etc.

In line with the above, smaller properties, such as studio flats, will be able to comply with the Standard provided they provide the basic amenities outlined.

Criterion D: It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

The definition requires a dwelling to have efficient heating. It should be noted that, whilst dwellings meeting criteria B, C and D are likely also to meet criterion A, some category 1 hazards may still be present. For example, a dwelling meeting criterion D may still contain a category 1 damp or cold hazard.

Efficient heating is defined as:

  • any gas or oil programmable central heating; or
  • electric storage heaters; or
  • warm air systems; or
  • underfloor systems; or
  • programmable LPG/solid fuel central heating; or
  • similarly efficient heating systems.

The primary heating system must have a distribution system sufficient to provide heat to 2 or more rooms of the home. There may be storage heaters in 2 or more rooms, or other heaters that use the same fuel in 2 or more rooms. Even if the central heating system covers most of the house making a dwelling decent, under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System a landlord must be sure that the home is warm enough for the occupant.

Heating sources which provide less energy efficient options fail the Decent Homes Standard. Programmable heating is where the timing and the temperature of the heating can be controlled by the occupants.

If new heating or insulation is being installed, it is important that steps are taken to ensure the dwelling is adequately ventilated.

A property that does not have efficient heating will be classed as not meeting the Standard.

Please note that, separately, privately rented properties should also meet a minimum level of energy efficiency under the requirements set out in the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations. This will be complementary to the wider standard, with energy efficiency improvements also playing a role in reducing some serious hazards, such as cold and damp. The government has consulted on raising this standard and will respond to this in due course.

Later in the consultation we provide a proposal for exemptions to the Standard where properties may not be able to meet the Standard, for example, because the building is listed. We are aware of the varied needs of the sector and we are committed to ensuring this is reflected in the delivery of the policy. As is the case with the Housing Act 2004, we propose the Decent Homes Standard will apply when the property is occupied by those persons as their only or main residence or they are to be treated as so occupying it.

Questions

  1. Do you support bringing in and enforcing the Decent Homes Standard, as set out above, in the private rented sector?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know
  1. How clear is the Standard as set out?
  • Very clear
  • Quite clear
  • Neither clear nor unclear
  • Quite unclear
  • Very unclear
  • Don’t know
  1. How difficult do you believe the Standard will be to meet?
  • Very easy
  • Quite easy
  • Neither easy nor difficult
  • Quite difficult
  • Very difficult
  • Don’t know
  1. Currently, a property will fail the Decent Homes Standard if a ‘key building component’ (e.g. wall, window, roof) is both old and in poor condition. Should we change the Standard to remove ‘old’ so only the condition is relevant?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

4. Enforcement of a Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector

Current enforcement regime for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System

Local councils have a range of powers and duties to tackle poor property conditions and prompt action from landlords who do not fulfil their responsibilities. Most importantly, local councils have a duty to take action against category 1 hazards when these are identified. Typically, local councils will undertake an inspection after a complaint is raised by a tenant, however some local councils undertake proactive inspections, particularly for properties that are subject to either mandatory or additional HMO licensing, or selective licensing.

Powers that can be used once a hazard has been identified range from hazard awareness notices (to inform a landlord about a hazard) and improvement notices (where changes are formally required), to taking emergency remedial action to remedy the more serious defects.

Emergency remedial action can be taken by local councils where there is an imminent risk of serious harm resulting from a category 1 hazard. The local council can enter the premises and undertake any necessary remedial works required to reduce the immediate risk.

Offences that are committed in the current enforcement regime can be dealt with by way of being issued with a civil penalty of up to £30,000 or taken to court with a potential unlimited fine and/or being banned from being a landlord.

Local councils are additionally responsible for enforcement of wider standards, such as energy efficiency and electrical safety.

Landlord duty to meet the Decent Homes Standard

The current enforcement system largely places the obligation on local councils to identify hazards in privately rented properties and take enforcement action against the landlord, who must then comply.

This creates an environment where some landlords are not proactive in ensuring their property meets requirements and rather wait for an inspection to be told what improvements need to be made whilst tenants live in unacceptable conditions.

In order to address this, we plan to introduce a legal duty on landlords to ensure their property meets the Decent Homes Standard. If landlords are in breach of this requirement as identified by a local council through an inspection, this would be a criminal offence and it can be dealt with by either issuing a civil penalty or undertaking a prosecution in the magistrate’s court. We propose that failure to comply with this duty also be made a banning order offence. A banning order prohibits a landlord from letting housing or engaging in letting agency or property management work.

The system must work for responsible landlords, letting agents, and communities. Landlords who maintain good letting practices and standards are a valuable part of our housing market.

We also propose to extend the grounds for rent repayment orders, requiring landlords to repay rent to the tenant(s) in situations where they have not complied with the Decent Homes Standard.

Questions

  1. Do you think that a landlord’s failure to meet the Decent Homes Standards should be a criminal offence?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should local councils have the option to issue civil penalties or prosecute for Decent Homes Standard offences?
  • Local councils should only issue civil penalties
  • Local councils should only prosecute
  • Local councils should have the option to issue civil penalties or prosecute
  • Local councils should not be able to issue civil penalties or prosecute
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think rent repayment orders should be extended to include Decent Homes Standard offences?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think that a landlord’s failure to meet their duty to keep a property at Decent Homes Standard should be included as a banning order offence?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know

Exemptions from the duty

We recognise that there will be cases where landlords are not able to meet elements of the Decent Homes Standard and as such should not be in breach of that duty, such as in listed properties where the landlord may not have permission to make changes. We propose that this list of exemptions is set out in legislation.

We also recognise that during the period of letting a property, occasions may also arise where a landlord should not be in breach of the duty for lapses in meeting the Decent Homes Standard. For example, where a landlord has bought a property that does not meet the Standard with sitting tenants and plans to make the property decent. In these circumstances, we propose giving local councils powers to issue temporary discretionary exemptions. These notices would exempt the landlord from being in breach of the duty to meet the relevant element of the Decent Homes Standard for a specified period of time. Government would issue guidance for local councils on what is expected in these cases and require local councils to have due regard to this guidance when making decisions.

As in the current system, landlords will be able to make representations and local councils should consider specific circumstances. For example, not taking action against a landlord where it can be shown that the breach is recent and the landlord was not made aware of it, or where upgrades are clearly not reasonable or practicable. The aim is to have a proportionate system that puts responsibility onto landlords whilst recognising there may be certain situations where a flexible approach is required.

Landlords would retain the right to appeal any subsequent enforcement action through the courts.

Questions

  1. Do you think that local councils should have the discretion to make properties temporarily exempt from the duty to meet the Decent Homes Standard on a case-by-case basis (with regard to statutory guidance)?
  • Yes
  • No, exemptions should exist but not at the discretion of local councils
  • No, there should be no exemptions
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  • Other, please specify [free text]
  1. In some instances, carrying out Decent Homes Standard work or repairs without permission would put the landlord in breach of a statutory obligation, such as in the case of listed buildings. We are proposing to exempt landlords where they have attempted to obtain permission to carry out the works and been refused. Do you think it would be appropriate for this exemption to the Decent Homes Standard to be set out in legislation?
  • Yes
  • No, these should be discretionary exemptions issued by the local council
  • No, this should not be an exemption
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the discretion to temporarily exempt a landlord from the duty to meet the Decent Homes Standard where the landlord has bought a property with sitting tenants that does not meet the Standard?
  • Yes
  • No, this exemption should be set out in legislation
  • No, this should not be an exemption
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the discretion to temporarily exempt the personal representatives of a landlord from meeting the Decent Homes Standard where a letting property is under probate?
  • Yes
  • No, this exemption should be set out in legislation
  • No, this should not be an exemption
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the discretion to temporarily exempt an incoming manager from the duty to meet the Decent Homes Standard where a landlord has either lost their HMO licence or is not fit and proper, so a new company or person is managing the property?
  • Yes
  • No, this exemption should be set out in legislation
  • No, this should not be an exemption
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the discretion to temporarily exempt someone from the duty to meet Decent Homes Standard where they are taking over the property on a temporary basis due to the landlord being incapacitated?
  • Yes
  • No, this exemption should be set out in legislation
  • No, this should not be an exemption
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the discretion to temporarily exempt a landlord from the duty to meet the Decent Homes Standard where accidental damages have occurred (e.g. fires, floods, storms, etc.)?
  • Yes
  • No, this exemption should be set out in legislation
  • No, this should not be an exemption
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you have any further comments on exemptions from the landlord duty to meet the Standard?
  • [free text]

Responsible person for the landlord duty

It will be important to correctly define in legislation who would be liable for the failure to meet the Decent Homes Standard. This is to ensure the framework is clear and to avoid situations where loopholes can be exploited by unscrupulous landlords who prioritise maximising profit over providing a safe and decent home.

The legislation will need to address how the duty will work in situations more complicated than simply the owner of the property letting to a tenant.

In respect of one property, there may be the ultimate owner (the freeholder), a long leaseholder (e.g. someone who has a lease over 21 years), and a chain of several subleases prior to arriving at the immediate tenants. For example, in some rental properties, the owner/landlord will rent out the property to an individual who will guarantee a fixed income in exchange for permission to sublet the property to a third party. These agreements are often referred to as ‘rent-to-rent’.

We would like your views on this to help us ensure that the duty functions well.

Questions

  1. Who do you think should be responsible for a Decent Homes Standard failure? Please select one or more responses.
  • The immediate landlord – the person who receives the rent from those living in the property. Although this person has a direct relationship with the tenants they may not have sufficient control over the property to ensure it meets the Decent Homes Standard.
  • The person with “control” over the property – this may not be the immediate landlord if in order to comply with the Decent Homes Standard they need consent from a superior landlord. A person would have “control” if they can make decisions about the property to ensure the Decent Homes Standard is met without having to seek consent from a superior leaseholder or freeholder.
  • The freeholder of the property or the leaseholder with a lease of more than 21 years – which party is responsible for the relevant criterion of the Decent Homes Standard will depend on the rights and responsibilities as set out in the terms of individual leases.
  • Other [free text]

Registering Decent Homes Standard compliance on the Property Portal

The government has committed to legislate for a new digital Property Portal. Private landlords will be legally required to register their property on the Portal and it will support landlords in understanding and demonstrating their regulatory compliance. The Portal will also enable tenants to review necessary information in relation to the compliance of a property and provide local councils with a trusted intelligence source to support the enforcement of property standards.

In order to support local councils in their enforcement activity and tenants in understanding their landlord compliance with the Decent Homes Standard, we propose including compliance and exemptions information relating to the Decent Homes Standard on the new Property Portal.

We propose that landlords use the Portal to self-declare whether the property is decent. Landlords would also use the Portal to register where an exemption applies to their property.

To give responsible landlords confidence in the system, we propose to deter unscrupulous landlords from knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information by making it an offence to do so, which could result in prosecution or a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

Questions

  1. Do you think that landlords should use the Property Portal to register Decent Homes Standard compliance of their properties or record where there is an agreed exemption?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Tenants only: Would you find it helpful to be able to view whether your current or prospective property had been declared Decent Homes Standard compliant by the landlord or whether an exemption was in place?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  • Not applicable
  1. Do you think it should be an offence to provide false or misleading information regarding Decent Homes Standard compliance and exemptions?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Duplicative burdens on landlords at local and national level are undesirable where they can be avoided. We want to work with local councils and other stakeholders to ensure that the transition to a Privately Rented Property Portal is as seamless as possible, including looking at how it can integrate with licensing schemes where practicable. We will also work to streamline requirements for landlords, such as by working with BEIS on synchronising guidance on minimum energy efficiency. It is imperative that the system meets the needs of landlords, tenants, agents and local councils. Please share thoughts on how we can streamline requirements and support compliance.
  • [free text]

Duty on local councils to investigate Decent Homes Standard complaints and report on enforcement action

Our proposed approach is for local councils to have a duty to investigate complaints relating to the Decent Homes Standard in their area. This would help ensure that Decent Homes Standard enforcement is prioritised and that substandard properties are dealt with swiftly.

To support better transparency and accountability, we propose requiring local councils to report Decent Homes Standard improvements and enforcement activities. This could be to their local community and/or to central government.

We will work with local councils to assess any appropriate new burdens that this would entail.

Questions

  1. Do you think local councils should have a duty to investigate complaints of properties that fail to meet the Standard in their area?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should local councils be required to report activity related to addressing properties that fail to meet the Standard in their area?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. If local councils were required to report their Decent Homes Standard activity, to whom should they provide the information?
  • To their local community
  • To central government
  • Both their local community and central government
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. [For local councils only] How important would standalone enforcement guidance be to assist local councils in enforcing the Decent Homes Standard?
  • Very important
  • Moderately important
  • Not important
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  • Not applicable
  1. Do you have any further comments on the proposal to put a duty on local councils?
  • [Free text]

Provide local councils with powers to remedy properties that do not meet the Standard

To ensure properties are made decent, we intend to give local councils powers to make properties decent. The Housing Act 2004 gives local councils a range of powers to enforce when hazards are identified in the private rented sector.

We propose to supplement these powers, by providing measures that will support reaching the Standard as set out in criteria B, C and D above.

We propose giving local councils the powers set out below.

  • Decent Homes Standard failure awareness notice: this would alert landlords to a Decent Homes Standard failure of criteria B, C, or D, but not require them to remedy it;
  • Decent Homes Standard improvement notice: this would alert landlords to a Decent Homes Standard failure of criteria B, C or D, and require them to remedy the issue within a fixed timeframe;
  • Decent Homes Standard emergency remedial works: where there is a clear health and safety risk to the tenant, the local council would have powers to undertake the work needed in place of the landlord, and then follow a legal process to recoup the cost from the landlord; and
  • Decent Homes Standard failure prohibition order: where the local council can prohibit the use of part or all of the property on the basis that it is not safe to be inhabited.

These powers would contain the same checks and balances that exist throughout current housing enforcement legislation. Local councils will be expected to investigate cases correctly and achieve reasonable and proportionate outcomes using robust enforcement policies. Formal actions will include an ability to appeal local councils’ decisions and requirements. Tribunals and courts will also be able to uphold or quash enforcement actions.

Questions

  1. Do you think Decent Homes Standard failure awareness notices are a useful part of Decent Homes Standard enforcement?
  • Yes, they are useful
  • No, they are not useful
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the power to serve Decent Homes Standard improvement notices?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the power to undertake emergency remedial works?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils should have the power to issue Decent Homes Standard failure prohibition orders?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know

Clarify in legislation that landlords do not have a right to attend local council inspections

As part of the process for dealing with category 1 and 2 hazards, local councils are required to inform the occupier (tenant) and the owner (landlord) of their intended visit. This requirement has been misinterpreted by some as meaning the landlord must have the option to be present at an inspection, enabling some unscrupulous landlords to use it as a delaying tactic against timely inspections. The presence of the landlord can also lead to tenants feeling inhibited about discussing their complaint and/or issues with the landlord.

We would therefore propose making clear in legislation that a landlord does not have a right to attend an inspection.

Questions

  1. Should we amend legislation to make it explicit that a landlord does not have a right to attend inspections [by virtue of receiving notice to that effect]?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know

Providing advice on decency

We propose that local councils should be able to provide advice on pre-emptive work for properties that are likely to become non-decent in the near future.

Receiving advice about pre-emptive work provides for efficiency savings, both for the property owner as this prevents more serious and costly defects developing, and for the enforcing local council. In the medium to long term this will reduce the number of category 1 hazards developing, reduce local council enforcement intervention, and reduce tenant exposure to harmful conditions.

Alternatively, or in addition, landlords may wish to access reliable advice from other sources on how to ensure that their property meets the Decent Homes Standard or on pre-emptive work to ensure the property does not fail to meet the Standard in the near future. We are also interested in your views on who might provide such advice and what factors the government should consider for this to work well for landlords, tenants, agents and local councils.

Questions

  1. Do you think that there is a role for other providers (not just the local council) in providing advice to landlords on whether their properties meet the Decent Homes Standard?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think local councils have a role in providing advice to landlords on pre-emptive work to prevent properties failing to meet the Standard in the near future?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Where local councils provide this advice, should they be able to charge for this service?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know

Scope of application of the Decent Homes Standard

We would like your views on which types of privately rented accommodation should be required to meet the Decent Homes Standard. We are keen that as many tenants as possible benefit from this new Standard, whilst recognising that there may be types of accommodation where it is not appropriate. As is the case with the Housing Act 2004, we propose the Decent Homes Standard will apply when the property is occupied by those persons as their only or main residence or they are to be treated as so occupying it.

Questions

  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to all privately rented accommodation let on a tenancy?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to residential temporary accommodation provided by local councils to homeless households?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to purpose-built student accommodation (e.g. halls of residence owned by universities or other providers)?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to property guardians, where empty buildings are temporarily used for accommodation to provide security?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to lodgers, where a tenant lives in the property with the landlord?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to non-traditional accommodation such as house boats or caravans?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to ‘tied’ accommodation, which is where an individual is required to or has the option to live in certain accommodation for the purpose of their employment?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Should the Decent Homes Standard apply to farm business tenancies and agricultural holdings?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you have any other comments on the scope of the Decent Homes Standard, including other types of accommodation that you think should or should not be included in scope?
  • [Free text]

5. Impacts and costs

There are a range of benefits that can be expected from bringing in a Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector. Evidence suggests that tenure has a differential impact on wellbeing and that people living in social and privately rented housing have poorer wellbeing than homeowners[footnote 5]. This is partly due to quality being worse, and conditions such as excess cold and overcrowding can affect physical health and mental wellbeing throughout life[footnote 6]. Increasing energy efficiency and removing damp and mould can also improve health[footnote 7]. It is estimated that fixing all serious hazards across all tenures would save the NHS £1.4 billion, and wider society £18.6 billion[footnote 8].

It is estimated that private landlords will receive £9.3 billion in rent for homes that fail to meet the Standard this year, of which £3 billion is funded by the state from housing benefit[footnote 9]. Office for National Statistics data suggests that, in the year ending March 2021, private renters were victims of burglary at a higher rate than both social housing tenants and owner occupiers[footnote 10]. Overall, private renters are less likely to have effective security in their homes and are more likely to be victims of burglary when compared to homeowners. There are also likely to be indirect benefits, such as improved emotional and behavioural problems for children in the private rented sector, which has been shown to be linked to housing quality and security[footnote 11]. Improving repair issues will also provide aesthetic benefits to the local community, and to tenants who will be able to take greater pride in their homes.

Realising these benefits to ensure tenants have access to a fundamentally decent property will mean investment in some properties. But, as well as the benefits from more decent homes, it is also important to understand the impacts the Standard may have on landlords and the market. We anticipate around 79% of private rented sector properties will not require any investment because they already meet the current Decent Homes Standard. However, 21% of properties that currently do not meet the Standard will require investment from landlords. We expect most landlords to be able to meet these costs. A proportion of this cost includes properties being free from category 1 hazards, which is the existing standard and a cost that landlords should already be factoring into their business plans. We believe many of the costs will save landlords money in the longer-term, by helping them to prevent properties from falling into poor condition and requiring a higher level of investment. Improvements may also increase the capital value of a property, bringing longer-term financial benefits for landlords where this is the case.

Whenever investment is required, there is a risk that landlords may prefer to exit the market and sell their properties rather than make upgrades, or pass costs on to tenants. We believe that a suitable implementation timeline, giving landlords time to make the necessary improvements to their properties, would help to manage these risks. A further option to mitigate this risk would be to introduce a cost cap – an upper limit for the amount of money expected of landlords to contribute to meeting the Standard, after which they would be considered to have met their obligation. Our current position is that this may not be appropriate for the element of the Standard where this is about safety (criteria A). A cost cap may, however, be suitable for other elements of the Standard. We are keen to hear respondents’ views on potential impacts and mitigations so that we can factor this into our future plans.

Questions

  1. What do you think will be the main impacts from bringing in a Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector for both tenants and landlords? Please provide any evidence and further comments on impacts in the free text box.
  • Improved tenant/landlord relationship
  • Fairer competition in the rental market
  • Improved health for tenants
  • Improved wellbeing for tenants
  • Increase in tenants’ pride in their home
  • Improved communities
  • Financial cost for landlords to make changes
  • Landlords reducing their portfolio size
  • Increased rents
  • Increased property values
  • Disruption for tenants whilst works are being undertaken
  • Disruption for landlord whilst works are being undertaken
  • Other (if you have evidence or further thoughts, please include here) [free text]
  1. There are risks that bringing in the Decent Homes Standard means landlords exit the market or that they pass costs on to tenants. Which of the below would you support to mitigate the risks of any negative impacts of introducing a Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector? Choose as many as you would like.
  • Cost caps
  • Extended implementation timeline
  • None
  • Other [free text]
  1. To what extent would you support bringing in a cost cap on criteria B, C and D of the Standard (e.g. on the non-safety elements of the Standard)?
  • Strongly supportive
  • Quite supportive
  • Neither supportive nor unsupportive
  • Quite unsupportive
  • Strongly unsupportive
  • Unsure/Don’t know

Transitioning to the Standard

The majority of landlords already provide homes that are decent but we recognise that the timing of bringing in a new standard is important in managing impacts on the sector, as well as ensuring the sector has sufficient time to respond and make improvements. Recognising that we propose some significant changes, we propose a phased approach or transition period. This would allow local councils time to prepare for Decent Homes Standard enforcement and landlords additional time to comply with the Decent Homes Standard.

Options for how this approach could work are set out below:

  1. A) A grace period: a period of time where local councils can assess against the Decent Homes Standard but not take enforcement action. This could be set at 6/12/18 months. This approach has been taken in recent years, for example in the introduction of minimum room sizes in houses in multiple occupation.
  2. B) Phasing in parts of the Standard: for example, you could start with an offence for failing part 1 (Housing Health and Safety Rating System), and then elements 2-4 at 12 month intervals.

Questions

  1. Do you think there should be a transitionary ‘grace’ period before the Decent Homes Standard becomes a requirement, and when enforcement action can be taken?
  • Yes, there should be a grace period
  • No, there should be no grace period
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. If there were to be a grace period, what length of grace period should there be before the Decent Homes Standard becomes a requirement?
  • Less than 12 months
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • Longer than 18 months
  • There should not be a grace period
  • Unsure/Don’t know
  1. Do you think that we should phase in parts of the Standard. For example, to bring in criteria A and B in the first instance, before including criteria C and D at a future point
  • Yes, the elements of the Standard should be phased
  • No, all elements of the Standard should come in at the same time.
  • Unsure/don’t know
  1. If elements of the Standard were to be phased in, please rank the order you would want them to be brought in from first to last.
  • Criterion A: It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
  • Criterion B: It is in a reasonable state of repair
  • Criterion C: It has reasonable facilities and services
  • Criterion D: It has a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
  1. If elements of the Standard were to be phased in, how long would you like to see between phases?
  • Less than 6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-18 months
  • More than 18 months
  • There should not be any phasing
  • Unsure/don’t know

 

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