The government has announced plans to apply the Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rented Sector for the first time as it aims to tackle the estimated 12% of rental properties that “pose an imminent risk to the health and safety of tenants.”
Outlined in the Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper published last month, the legally binding standard is set to be introduced under the Renters’ Reform Bill and would be applicable to all privately rented homes in the UK.
What is the Decent Homes Standard?
Announced in 2000 and then updated in 2006 following the introduction of the Housing Act 2004, the Decent Homes Standard is a set of regulatory requirements that sets out the minimum standard all social rented housing must meet to provide a “decent” home.
Under the Decent Homes Standard, properties must:
- Be in a “reasonable” state of repair
- Have “reasonably” modern facilities and services
- Provide a “reasonable” level of thermal comfort
- Meet the statutory minimum standard for housing
Currently, the standard is only applicable to public sector housing, including council and housing association properties.
But the government has announced plans to apply the DHS to privately rented homes for the first time as it works towards its target of halving the number of “poor quality” rented homes.
“Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home. Most landlords and agents treat their tenants fairly and provide good quality and safe homes.
“However, this is not universal practice and too many of the 4.4 million households that rent privately live in poor conditions, paying a large proportion of their income to do so,” says the white paper published in June.
The Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector
To be decent, properties will need to be free from serious health and safety hazards – but the minimum standard will go far beyond just safety, introducing a number of measures designed to ensure all renters can live in a higher quality home.
Landlords will need to make sure their homes don’t fall into disrepair and address any problems that occur before they deteriorate further and require more expensive remedial work.
Private rented homes will need to be warm and dry – and amenities and facilities within the property should be “clean, appropriate and usable.” This means facilities should be well maintained and updated before they reach the end of their lives.
The standard includes things like kitchens and bathrooms, which will need to be “adequate, located correctly and – where appropriate – not too old.”
As part of the reforms, the government also plans to review the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) in autumn 2022. Used to assess the seriousness of hazards, the government says the review will “streamline” the process and seek to make it easier for both landlords and tenants to understand the requirements.
How Will the Decent Homes Standard Be Applied?
Legislative duty will be put on landlords, who will need to ensure that their properties meet the minimum required standard.
Problems that prevent a property from providing a “decent” home will need to be quickly addressed by the landlord.
Tools will also be put in place to tackle landlords who don’t comply. Local councils are set to be given powers to “crack down on non-compliant landlords while protecting the reputation of responsible ones.”
What Do I Need to Do?
It’s a good idea to read the full white paper to gain an understanding of the reforms and exactly what is required.
Landlords may need to consider updating their properties if needed and addressing any issues present, which they should be doing on a regular basis anyway.
The government says it will consider how best to support landlords, including the possibility of phasing in the reforms.
In the longer term, there is the possibility we could see the introduction of regular, independent checks, as well as further consolidation of existing legislation.
Many within the property industry have said it will be important to ensure the Decent Homes Standard does not lead to a mass exodus of landlords quitting the market.
As ever, it’s wise to plan ahead, be aware of your responsibilities and seek professional advice where appropriate.
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Important note: The information provided in this article is general in nature and does not constitute personal financial advice. If you are unsure whether an investment is right for you, please seek professional advice. If you choose to invest, the value of your investment can both rise and fall so you may get back less than you put in.