The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee has published a first report on the private rented sector.
In the lengthy report a number of recommendations are made including:
- Conduct a wide-ranging review to consolidate legislation, with the aim of producing a much simpler and more straightforward set of regulations that landlords and tenants can easily understand.
- Consultation on the future of the housing health and safety rating system and the introduction of a simpler, more straightforward set of quality standards for housing in the sector.
- Working with tenants‘, landlords’ and agents’ groups, establish and help to fund a publicity campaign to promote awareness of tenants’ and landlords’ respective rights and responsibilities.
- Bring forward proposals for the introduction of easy-to-read key fact sheets for landlords and tenants. As a minimum, the sheets should set out each party’s key rights and obligations, and give details of local organisations to whom they could go for further advice and information.
- Consultation on proposals to empower councils to impose a penalty charge without recourse to court action where minor housing condition breaches are not remedied within a fixed period of time, though an aggrieved landlord would have the right of appeal to a court.
- Where landlords are convicted of letting property below legal standards, local authorities be given the power to recoup from a landlord an amount equivalent to that paid out to the tenant in housing benefit (or, in future, universal credit).
- The Department for Communities and Local Government work with the Home Office on guidance that sets out clearly the role of the police in enforcement of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
- Bring forward proposals for a reformed approach to selective licensing, which gives councils greater freedom over when licensing schemes can be introduced and more flexibility over how they are implemented.
- Give local authorities a power to require landlords to be members of an approved accreditation scheme.
- Conduct a review of the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation.
- Work with the electrical industry to develop an electrical safety certificate for private rented properties.
- A requirement for all private rented properties to be fitted with a working smoke alarm and, wherever a relevant heating appliance is installed, an audible, wired-up EN 50291 compliant carbon monoxide alarm.
- Make letting and managing agents subject to the same regulation that currently governs sales agents and making client money protection and professional indemnity insurance mandatory.
- The code of practice accompanying any new redress scheme include a requirement that agents publish a full breakdown of fees which are to be charged to the tenant alongside any property listing or advertisement, be it on a website, in a window or in print.
- Convene a working party from all parts of the industry, to examine proposals to speed up the process of evicting during a tenancy tenants who do not pay rent promptly or fail to meet other contractual obligations.
- As a matter of good practice, local authorities should inspect properties before using them for the placement of homeless households.
- A wide-ranging review of local housing allowance (LHA). This review should assess whether there is greater scope for local flexibility over the setting of LHA rates and the boundaries of broad rental market areas.