Private rented housing ‘failing far too often to provide safe and secure homes’: Public Accounts Committee

On 13 April 2022 the Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report on the regulation of private renting in which it found that it is “too difficult for renters to realise their legal right to a safe and secure home” and that local authorities – constrained by a lack of support from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and its approach to licensing landlords – do not have the capacity and capability to provide “appropriate and consistent protection for private renters”.

The Committee said that 13 per cent (589,000) of privately rented properties currently pose “a serious threat to the health and safety of renters” – costing the NHS an estimated £340 million each year – though enforcement in the sector “is a postcode lottery … with 21 per cent of all privately rented homes in one region estimated to be severely unsafe”.

According to the report, tenants face increasing rents, a rising number of low-earners and families renting long-term, and the prevalence of “no-fault” evictions leaving households at risk of homelessness, and when trying to enforce their legal right to a safe and secure home private renters face an inaccessible, arduous and resource-intensive court process and the risk of retaliatory eviction. There is also evidence of unlawful discrimination in the sector, with 25 per cent of landlords unwilling to let to non-British passport holders and 52 per cent unwilling to let to tenants who receive Housing Benefit.

The Committee said that DLUHC has “only made piecemeal legislative changes in recent years, and in doing so has made the regulatory system even more overly complex and difficult to navigate for tenants, landlords and local authorities”. It expressed concern that plans to address problems in the sector in a White Paper later in the year will be hampered by DLUHC’s poor understanding of the issues in the sector including overcrowding, harassment and evictions, and the actual effect of regulation.

For the report, click here. For a summary, click here. For the response of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, welcoming the report, click here.

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