Tenants living in sub-standard rented accommodation need greater support, according to Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp UK, who has welcomed the government’s ongoing review of the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS).
The leading PropTech supplier believes that the ongoing review, which was initially announced in October 2018 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), is happening at a ‘pertinent time’ for the lettings industry, with the most recent English Housing Survey, published last month, revealing that the PRS accounts for the highest proportion of non-decent homes at 25%.
Under consideration is whether the system needs updating and whether to introduce minimum standards for common health and safety problems in rental accommodation.
For a home to be considered ‘decent’, it must meet the HHSRS minimum standard, which was introduced in 2006, under the Housing Act 2004, designed to provide local authorities with the means to check health and safety in residential properties. Councils can use the HHSRS to recover costs from landlords for repair works or order them to carry out improvements.
The property must also contain no category 1 hazards, alongside several other criteria.
But the English Housing Survey shows that in 2017, 14% of PRS homes had a category 1 hazard, although this is down from 31% in 2008.
Cobbold commented: “With the PRS accounting for the highest proportion of non-decent homes, the review of the HHSRS will be important in determining if criteria need to be tightened in order to reduce the number of sub-standard rental homes.
“It's pleasing to see that the number of rental homes with serious hazards is declining, but that is another reason why the HHSRS needs updating.
“As newer homes enter the sector and energy efficiency continues to improve, there could be entirely different health and safety issues which now merit closer attention.”
An updated HHSRS is further essential for the PRS due to the significant change the market has undergone since the system was first introduced, according to Cobbold.
He makes reference to the English Housing Survey that shows that in the last decade, the number of households with dependent children in the PRS has increased by 795,000. Meanwhile, during the same period, the number of 35-44-year-olds privately renting more than doubled from 13% to 28%.
He continued: “As well as changing demographics, which have an impact on property standards, the sector has become much larger since 2006, now accounting for around a fifth of all households.
“This means more tenants need protection from rogue landlords with increased opportunities to let sub-standard homes.
“Moreover, the introduction this year of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 - which will give tenants the opportunity to take legal action against landlords letting hazardous homes - means that a HHSRS which reflects the current market is vital.
“This will help landlords and letting agents to meet their compliance obligations, while offering the required protection for the nation's renters.”