The Private Rented Sector - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

3  Raising standards of property and management

26.  Although we received some evidence suggesting that standards in the private rented sector had risen in recent years,[41] we heard concerns from a number of people about the physical standards of property in some parts of the sector, and the way in which some landlords carried out their management responsibilities. In this chapter, we will consider how local authorities carry out enforcement to tackle poor standards in property and deal with unscrupulous landlords; we will then consider the potential of accreditation and licensing schemes, before looking at safety standards.

Local authority enforcement

27.  We heard concerns about unscrupulous landlords operating in the private rented sector. The housing charity, Shelter, stated that it had

been campaigning for action to tackle the small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords who make people's lives a misery. These landlords condemn their tenants to living in rundown, unsafe, or overcrowded properties. They will often neglect their properties, avoiding making the necessary, legal improvements. Or they will intimidate those who speak out, threatening them with eviction. Despite an increase in the number of prosecutions against these landlords, the problem is getting worse.[42]

28.  A number of witnesses told us that, while local authorities had the powers they needed to deal with such unscrupulous landlords, often these powers were not used effectively. The Residential Landlords Association noted that "according to figures from Shelter, just 487 landlords in England were prosecuted last year; a figure that is remarkably low out of an estimated 1.2 million landlords in total".[43] It said that "the problem is not a lack of powers, but the willingness and ability of local authorities to enforce their existing powers".[44]

29.  We did, however, hear some good examples of local authorities working effectively to raise standards through targeted enforcement and education work, and the introduction of licensing and accreditation schemes. We consider some of these examples below.[45] For all this good practice, there were concerns that local authorities were inconsistent in their approach to enforcement.[46] Kay Boycott, Director of Communications, Policy and Campaigns at Shelter, said:

There are some good examples out there. In the work that we have been doing with local authorities over the last two years, we have seen some waking up to this and putting in some quite innovative solutions. It would be good if that best practice was spread.[47]

The Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), which had conducted a survey of local government to establish councils' approaches to the private rented sector, stated that "many councils are starting to try different approaches, but there appears to be scope for more coordination with regard to sharing learning".[48] Mark Prisk, the Housing Minister, said that there was "a wide variability in enforcement, whether it is trading standards, environmental health, planning or whatever, and one of the things I want to encourage is how we can strengthen that, so that good and best practice becomes more of the norm".[49] The Local Government Association has responsibilities for co-ordinating "sector-led improvement" across local government.[50]

30.  Some local authorities are doing excellent work to raise standards in the private rented sector, but there appears to be more scope for sharing this good practice, so that all councils are performing to a high standard. The Local Government Association should, as part of its sector-led improvement role, make sure that mechanisms are in place to ensure all councils learn from the good practice and take effective steps to improve standards of property and management in the private rented sector.

31.  Some witnesses suggested that local authorities struggled to find resources to carry out enforcement or to promote improvement in the sector. Pennine Lancashire Councils stated:

The necessity to intervene is growing while at the same time Council resources needed to respond to the issues discussed are already over stretched. If it continues this situation will lead to greater risks to health for tenants and the overall reputation of the PRS. General existing enforcement powers work, but they are very time consuming and costly. Some of the Pennine Lancashire authorities no longer have the capacity to carry out statutory responsibilities and this has been made worse by the continuing expenditure cuts.[51]

LGIU, commenting on its survey, concluded that a "lack of resource is perceived as the biggest barrier to greater engagement with the PRS, and subsequent improvements in quality".[52] We heard particular concerns about the impact of resource constraints upon tenancy relations and environmental health officers and on councils' ability to work proactively.[53] We are concerned about reports of reductions in staff who have responsibility for enforcement and tenancy relations and who have an important role in making approaches to raising standards successful. Given the financial constraints that councils face, it is important to identify approaches to raising standards that will not use up scarce resources. One approach is to ensure that enforcement arrangements pay for themselves and help to fund wider improvement activity. Therefore, where possible, the burden of payment should be placed upon those landlords who flout their responsibilities.


32.  Tom Gilchrist from Bristol City Council said that it "could be an expensive business" for the local authority to prosecute a landlord. He suggested the introduction of fixed penalty notices, to make it easier for local authorities to carry out enforcement:

Penalty charge notices for simple offences would be so much easier to do. You can give a ticket to a landlord for relatively minor management offences within the house—a broken electricity supply, a broken fire alarm or storage and equipment stored in escape routes—which are going to be fixed relatively quickly. You can serve a fixed penalty charge notice on the landlord. If that can be repaired/resolved within seven days, there is no charge at all.[54]

Others were more doubtful about the use of penalty charges. John Statham, Head of Housing Partnerships at Leeds City Council, suggested that "you would need a significant influx of resources to be issuing fixed penalty notices and then to be managing whatever happens with the payments or non-payments of it".[55]

33.  We see merit in a system which allows local authorities to identify minor infringements, and requires fast remedial action by a landlord which if not carried out would allow the local authority to impose a penalty charge. It would have the benefit of achieving improvements and generating resources to fund authorities' wider work to raise standards in the sector. We recommend that the Government consult 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.


34.  Some witnesses suggested that the payment of housing benefit be made conditional upon landlords meeting certain standards. Camden Council said that it "would like to discuss the possibility of benefits that are paid to cover part or all of rent only being paid to landlords whose properties meet the decent homes standard".[56] Camden's Leader, Cllr Sarah Hayward, thought it "scandalous that my taxpayers' money is spent on people living in sometimes really very terrible conditions".[57]

35.  Other witnesses rejected this approach. John Statham did not think that housing benefit should be linked to property condition.[58] He said that "housing benefit is there to support the income of the individual, because they are unable to provide fully for themselves at that point in time", adding that there were other mechanisms in place to deal with property standards.[59] Shelter, in a published briefing note, stated that "restricting housing benefit because of a landlord's behaviour or a property's condition would penalise the tenant who would remain legally liable for the contractual rent" and that tenants would be "put at risk of arrears, debt and homelessness through no fault of their own".[60]

36.  Others were concerned about how such an approach could be implemented. Ruth Abbott, Housing Standards and Adaptations Manager for the City of York Council, suggested that the introduction of Universal Credit would make it harder to link benefits to standards "because standards are enforced at a local level and benefits [...] will be administered more centrally".[61] Mr Prisk questioned the practicality. He warned that, if local authorities had to clear a property as acceptable before it could be let

as an HB tenant you might find yourself at a significant disadvantage when trying to get the property, because someone who is not an HB tenant will be able to sign without having to go to the local authority.[62]

Haringey Council agreed that "placing the burden to ensure compliance before housing benefit (or the subsequent element of the Universal Credit) is paid, would be unduly cumbersome" and instead proposed that "authorities are given the power to reclaim benefits where breaches occur without the requirement to apply to take enforcement action through the courts".[63]

37.  The idea of making the payment of housing benefit conditional upon landlords meeting certain standards is of interest. It is concerning that there is a minority of landlords who, whilst effectively being subsidised by public money, have little regard for the wellbeing of their tenants or the condition of the property they let. Nevertheless, to try to withhold payment of housing benefit would not only be extremely complicated to administer, but would also unfairly penalise the tenant and could leave them homeless. Moreover, it is important that the push to improve standards focuses on the sector as a whole, not just the housing benefit market. Where, however, housing benefit has been paid, and a landlord is found to have let substandard property, the local authority should be able to recoup it. We recommend that, 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). We hope that such a measure will help to prevent unscrupulous landlords from profiting from public money. Local authorities should be able to retain the money recouped to fund their work to raise standards. To ensure a consistent approach, those tenants who have paid rent with their own resources should also have the right to reclaim this rent when their landlord has been convicted of letting a substandard property.

Illegal eviction

38.  The Association of Tenancy Relations Officers (ATRO) said that "unlawful eviction; or the threat of it, and harassment and intimidation from landlords are at the very worst end of the scale of bad experiences that a private tenant can have".[64] Many local authorities, however, were under-using their powers of prosecution under the Prevention from Eviction Act 1977 (PEA).[65] ATRO stressed that a "consistently applied, properly resourced PEA prosecution strategy should be strongly encouraged as a part of any local authority's private rented and homeless prevention strategies" and called on the Government to

consider making it a statutory duty for local authorities to have a coherent policy as to how they will deter, investigate, and intervene in cases where private tenants are being unlawfully intimidated and subject to threats of illegal eviction.[66]

We do not agree that a statutory duty to have to take steps to tackle illegal eviction should be placed on local authorities, as it would be inconsistent with a localist approach. Nevertheless, it is again important that local authorities learn from each other and share best practice on tackling illegal eviction. The Local Government Association should ensure that lessons on illegal eviction are learnt and disseminated.

39.  We also heard concerns that in some instances the police did not understand the law on illegal eviction, wrongly considering it a purely civil matter, not a criminal offence, and on occasion even assisting the landlord in removing a tenant.[67] The North West Housing Practitioners Association said that action was "urgently required to ensure that the police are properly trained in dealing with reports of unlawful eviction and should become equally responsible with local authorities for prosecutions".[68] We are concerned that the police are sometimes unaware of their responsibilities in dealing with reports of illegal eviction. We recommend that 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 Prevention from Eviction Act 1977.

Licensing, registration or accreditation

40.  One suggested approach to raising standards in the sector is the licensing of landlords. In 2008, Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes of York University conducted a Government-commissioned independent review of the contribution and potential of the private rented sector ("the Rugg Review"). One of the key recommendations of this Review was a proposal for "light touch licensing and effective redress". The report of the review stated:

Light-touch licensing and effective redress can encourage local authorities to target the very worst landlords, by ensuring that effective sanctions are in place. A permit or licence would be required by all landlords, but would be available without any hurdle criteria on payment of a small fee. Nationally administered, the licence would be revoked if the landlord did not meet statutory requirements on housing management and quality. The licence fee income would finance the establishment of an augmented system of housing redress.[69]

41.  Some witnesses were supportive of the Rugg Review proposal. The British Property Federation, for instance, said that the proposal for a registration scheme

seemed to offer some prospect of improved communication with landlords and tenants, rationalisation of local schemes (important for larger landlords), and effective enforcement. This was to be achieved by landlords and tenants having to quote the landlord's registration number in all their transactions with the state—access to the courts, tax returns, benefit claims, tenancy deposit lodgement, etc.[70]

42.  Support for a national licensing scheme was not, however, universal. Some witnesses suggested that local discretion to introduce licensing schemes would be preferable to a blanket national approach. Cllr Tony Ball, from the District Councils' Network, stated:

My personal view is that as much discretion to react to local factors has to be good, because it is not a "one size fits all"; the issues are not the same up and down the country.[71]

The Government did not favour a national licensing scheme. Mark Prisk stated that "a national scheme can be very rigid and not reflect local circumstances".[72]

43.  The idea of national licensing has some merit, and such a scheme could bring a number of benefits, particularly if introduced alongside an effective system of redress. It is clear, however, that the Government has not been convinced by these arguments, and we have some sympathy with the Minister's assertion that a national scheme could be very rigid. Having tailored local schemes may bring its own costs, especially for landlords operating across several areas, but on balance we would prefer to see local authorities develop their own approaches to licensing or accreditation in accordance with local needs. The Government's focus should be on giving local authorities greater flexibility and encouraging the use of existing powers. In the following paragraphs, we consider areas in which additional flexibility could be provided.


44.  The Housing Act 2004 provides for the introduction of a scheme of selective licensing of private landlords in a local housing authority's area. Where such a scheme is in place, all private landlords must obtain a licence and, if they fail to do so or to achieve acceptable management standards, the authority can take enforcement action.[73] The Housing Act 2004 sets out two sets of general conditions under which an area can be "designated" for selective licensing. First, that "the area is, or is likely to become, an area of low housing demand; and that making a designation will, when combined with other measures [...] contribute to the improvement of the social or economic conditions in the area".[74] Second, that "that the area is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour; that some or all of the private sector landlords [...] are failing to take action to combat the problem [...]; and that making a designation will, when combined with other measures [...] lead to a reduction in, or the elimination of, the problem".[75] In 2010, the Government published a "general consent" enabling local authorities to introduce selective licensing without first seeking approval from the Secretary of State.[76]

45.  During our visit to Leeds, we visited the Cross Green area of the city where a selective licensing scheme was in place. John Statham, the council's Head of Housing Partnerships, said that the focus extended beyond property standards towards "trying to tackle issues in the area, whether that is crime and disorder or fly-tipping, as well as to tackle the standards in properties". The scheme was seen as a success and Mr Statham said that a number of landlords had been prosecuted, and that "antisocial behaviour and general environmental issues in the area have improved significantly as a result of the work".[77] There was also broad support for selective licensing from the group of landlords we met in Leeds.[78]

46.  More controversially, a landlord licensing scheme has been introduced across the whole of the London Borough of Newham. The council said that it was

concerned about increasing levels of anti-social behaviour associated with those rented properties that fail to meet satisfactory levels of tenancy and property management. The benefit of having a mandatory scheme is it will ensure poor landlords have nowhere to hide so we can target our enforcement action on them. We will also be creating a level playing field for good landlords, where they will no longer be undercut by landlords who do not manage their properties correctly.[79]

There was some unease, particularly amongst landlords, about Newham's scheme, and in particular its potential impact upon investment in the sector. Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of the National Landlords Association referred to anecdotal evidence from his members that "lenders are reluctant or actively telling them that they will not lend on properties in a borough area that has selective licensing".[80] Some landlords were concerned that they were required to complete a form for each property they owned. Andrew Cunningham, Chief Executive of Grainger plc, said that Grainger had to "fill in 60 forms. All we would ask is that, if we have 60 properties, we fill in one form and list 60 addresses".[81] He said that, while he did not think investors would "flood out of the borough" as a result of the scheme, nevertheless

if you are looking to invest in various places, if there are exactly equivalent properties in two boroughs, one where you have to spend an hour filling in a form and spend some money on fees and one where you do not, then investors will go to that one.[82]

Newham let us have sight of its form,[83] which we were surprised to find was such a substantial document being 11 pages, and accompanied by a further 32 pages of guidance.[84]

47.  Newham Council told us that it was a legislative requirement to complete a separate form for each property, although the electronic version of its form was designed to reduce the burden on landlords registering multiple properties.[85] Newham said that it would "advocate simplification of the licensing process" and "would like to see a significant decrease in the burden placed on landlords and local authorities in administering licensing applications".[86] Leeds City Council also considered the process of introducing selective licensing to be very laborious and said that the scheme in just one area had taken two years "to develop and get approved at a cost of around £100k to the authority".[87] It also pointed out that selective licensing was "specific to management issues and does not cover standards".[88]

48.  Other local authorities said that they were unable to use selective licensing as a tool for raising standards because their areas did not meet the criteria under which it could be introduced. Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council, stated:

The criteria need to be broader. For any licensing scheme to really work, it probably needs to cover everybody or a majority of people, so you get the good practice buying into the scheme, as well as using it as a stick with which to beat the bad landlords.[89]

Mr Prisk said that if there was

a good argument demonstrated that a significant proportion of local authorities would welcome something going beyond low demand and antisocial behaviour—in other words, other circumstances they are finding they would like to approach—I would certainly be happy to look at the evidence, absolutely.[90]

49.  Selective licensing can be an effective tool for dealing with poor property management and making wider improvements to the local area. At present, however, local authorities are limited in the circumstances in which they can introduce it, and the legislative requirements can make it burdensome for both local authorities and landlords. Local authorities should have greater freedom over when selective licensing can be introduced and the information they require landlords to provide. We recommend that the Government 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. Councils should ensure that the cost of a licence is not set so high as to discourage investment in the sector.


50.  A number of witnesses suggested that landlord accreditation schemes were an effective way of raising standards in the sector. We heard about a number of accreditation schemes, including ones run by local authorities, the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association (NLA).[91] The landlords we met in Leeds spoke very highly of the accreditation scheme run by the City Council, which they believed had helped to raise standards and drive out bad landlords. It also provided education and training to landlords. The NLA told us that its scheme

allows tenants to seek redress if the landlord does not meet their obligations in the tenancy agreement. If the NLA receives a complaint from a tenant, we will investigate, and if we find that the landlord has fallen short of the standards expected in our Code of Practice, will recommend the action that they should take to rectify the situation.[92]

It added that "if the landlord refused to accept or act on the decision of the complaint investigation, they would face removal from the accreditation scheme and potentially expulsion from membership of the NLA".[93]

51.  A number of witnesses favoured a system of self-regulation through accreditation. Professor Partington told us that the Law Commission had proposed a system of "'enhanced self-regulation' developed by all key stakeholders: landlords, agents, local authorities and tenants"; this system would include "greater use of accreditation schemes".[94] The Mayor of London wished "to establish a set of voluntary yet ambitious standards that renters should expect from any accreditation scheme operating in the capital, matched with benefits for landlords and agents to join".[95] Accordingly, he had published a Draft London Rental Standard for consultation.[96]

52.  There was some concern that the accreditation schemes currently in place, being voluntary, tended to include only conscientious landlords. The District Councils' Network, for instance, said that voluntary accreditation schemes "tend to attract landlords who are already maintaining a good standard of accommodation and management".[97] Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, told us that, when his Borough had introduced voluntary accreditation, only 600 of a known 15,000 landlords had joined the scheme.[98]

53.  Members of landlord accreditation schemes, those run by local authorities and those run by landlords' associations, speak positively of the benefits they offer. Membership of these schemes is, however, voluntary and they tend not to include unscrupulous or 'accidental' landlords. There may be a case in some areas for local authorities to require landlords to be part of such a scheme. We recommend that the Government give local authorities a power to require landlords to be members of an accreditation scheme run either by the council itself or by a recognised landlords association.

Other approaches: neighbourhood working

54.  Leeds City Council decided against further discretionary licensing and has introduced a neighbourhood approach which was "seen as more flexible than licensing".[99] This approach targeted "neighbourhoods on a street by street basis addressing the area as whole and dealing with standards in the private rented sector as well as empty homes".[100] The approach included close work with partner organisations, the provision of help, advice and mentoring, and an intention to inspect all private rented properties in an area to ensure they met minimum standards. The council stated that the approach was "seen as more flexible than licensing [and] can target a single street or 4/5 streets over a 6/9 month period rather than have a scheme for up to 5 years".[101] Blackpool Council had similarly developed an area based approach. It considered this to be "resource intensive but [...] cost effective because it identifies and deals with problems rather than just moving them on to other areas."[102]

55.  It is important that local authorities have options and tools to raise standards in their areas. Three particular options are: (1) greater use of landlord licensing schemes; (2) compulsory accreditation; and (3) taking a proactive neighbourhood approach to raising standards. In each of these cases, given resource constraints, the schemes have to pay for themselves, and, as far as possible, place the burden of payment on the unscrupulous landlords, with financial deterrents for non-compliance. Councils should be given the powers to impose heavy penalties on those who do not register for licensing or compulsory accreditation after appropriate notification. Neighbourhood approaches could be funded by local authorities recouping costs from landlords whose properties fail to meet minimum standards. We further recommend that the Government initiate a review of the fines imposed by the courts for letting substandard properties, to ensure they act as a sufficient deterrent.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

56.  Historically and for good reasons Houses in Multiple Occupation have been treated as a distinct category of housing, certain types of which require greater regulation than the rest of the private rented sector. Larger houses in multiple occupation (HMO) are currently subject to mandatory licensing: "prescribed" HMOs requiring a licence are defined as those comprising three or more storeys, and occupied by five or more persons living in two or more single households.[103] Local authorities are also able to introduce an additional licensing scheme to other types of HMO providing certain conditions are met.[104] As with selective licensing, the Government has published a general consent enabling local authorities to introduce additional licensing without seeking the approval of the Secretary of State.[105]

57.  Some evidence suggested that the definition of prescribed HMOs was too narrow. The National HMO Lobby proposed that "HMOs comprising either three or more storeys or five or more occupants should be subject to mandatory licensing".[106] Newcastle City Council went further, saying that it would "like to see the licensing requirement extended to all classes and sizes of HMOs in line with the scheme operational in Scotland".[107] Others suggested that there should be a review of the effectiveness of mandatory licensing. The NLA said that there was "a growing awareness that there has been very little review or assessment of the effectiveness of mandatory licensing since its implementation" and that "a comprehensive review of licensing would be greatly welcomed by those investing in shared housing".[108]

58.  Given the heightened safety issues that can arise in larger HMOs, there remains a case for a national requirement for mandatory licensing, alongside the greater flexibilities for local authorities proposed above. It may, however, be timely to review the processes for mandatory licensing of HMOs, particularly if there is to be a broader review of the regulation governing the private rented sector as we recommend. We recommend that the Government conduct a review of the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation. This review should consider, amongst other things, evidence of the effectiveness of mandatory licensing, how well it is enforced, and whether the definition of a prescribed HMO should be modified.


59.  We heard some concerns about high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation in particular areas. The National HMO Lobby stated that it was

not uncommon, not only for whole streets, but also for whole areas, to become dominated by student HMOs: in Headingley in Leeds, for instance, there are a hundred streets where the student population outnumbers residents. This process has become known as 'studentification'.[109]

It listed a number of social and environmental impacts that arise when HMOs are concentrated in a particular area. These included crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, parking problems and litter.[110] We received a number of representations from people concerned about similar issues in their community.[111]

60.  Liam Burns, President of the National Union of Students, however, questioned the National HMO Lobby's assumptions, stating that "nobody knows how many HMOs are out there; hence, it is not factual to say there is a causal link between antisocial behaviour and HMOs".[112] He added that "many HMOs are simply not just about students",[113] and also pointed out that student unions did a lot of work to promote positive work between students and the communities they lived in.[114]

Article 4 directions

61.  A number of local authorities have sought to address problems with high concentrations of HMOs through the use of Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights allowing change of use from dwellinghouse to small HMO.[115] Newcastle City Council had introduced an Article 4 direction in some parts of the city and considered it "a useful tool for local authorities to call on to try and re-balance the housing market in areas experiencing high levels of private renting".[116]

62.  Others, however, were opposed to the use of Article 4 directions and suggested that they had a negative impact upon supply.[117] The Residential Landlords Association, for instance, said that they were "being misused and should be repealed to alleviate the restriction on supply, protect the asset values of residents' homes and allow people to choose where they want to live".[118]

63.  There are clearly concerns in some communities about high concentrations of HMOs and their social and environmental impact. Local authorities should be able to respond to these concerns by using Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights and so limit the concentration of HMOs. In some cases, the use of Article 4 could impact upon supply. However, local authorities are well placed to weigh up the arguments and make a judgment based on local circumstances. Where there are community concerns about high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation, councils should have the ability to control the spread of HMOs. Such issues should be a matter for local determination. We therefore consider it appropriate that councils continue to have the option to use Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights allowing change of use to HMO.

64.  It should not be left solely to local authorities, however, to address the consequences of high concentrations of students. Universities have a responsibility to ensure that student housing does not have a detrimental impact upon local communities. They should be working with local authorities and student groups to ensure that there is sufficient housing in appropriate areas and that students act as responsible householders and members of the community.

Safety standards

65.  We heard concerns about electrical safety within the private rented sector. The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) told us that there were "numerous cases of landlords failing to provide safe electrical installations and appliances, thereby compromising the wellbeing and safety of tenants".[119] There were some calls for electrical safety regulation along the lines of the gas safety certificate schemes.[120] The ESC recommended

that landlords have a full wiring check carried out on their property by a competent person every five years as an effective means of enhancing safety. We believe this should be required by law, with an add-on specifying the need for visual checks on change of tenancy (if occurring before the 5-year cycle ends).[121]

It also said that "electrical appliances should be subject to a combined inspection and test at least every 5 years".[122]

66.  Mark Prisk did not see the need for further regulation on electrical safety. He referred to "the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act, which specifically requires that all installations, whether it is gas, water or electricity, are maintained in good repair and working order" and said that that was "probably the right place to stay in".[123] We consider, however, that there is a case at least for confirming that electrical installations are in order. A check of the wiring every five years is not going to place a significant additional burden on landlords. We recommend that the Government work with the electrical industry to develop an electrical safety certificate for private rented properties. To obtain such a certificate, properties should be required to have a full wiring check every five years and a visual wiring check on change of tenancy. Landlords should be aware of the legal requirement to provide safe installations and appliances.

67.  A number of other ideas for improving safety were put to us. Evidence from the Association of Residential Letting Agents included a suggestion from one of its members for

Smoke alarms to be made compulsory as they are in Scotland. Similarly carbon monoxide alarms, fire blankets, and extinguishers, should also be required [in] all rented properties.[124]

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Carbon Monoxide recommended that all rented properties be required to have an audible carbon monoxide detector manufactured to the European Standard EN 50921 and that gas engineers be mandated to test appliances for the presence of carbon monoxide.[125] In our 2012 report, Building Regulations applying to electrical and gas installations and repairs in dwellings, we recommended that

Part J [of the Building Regulations] should [...] require audible, wired-up EN 50291-compliant carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted wherever a relevant heating appliance is installed in any new-build or existing homes.[126]

We consider such a requirement to be particularly important in the private rented sector. In addition, smoke alarms are available at very low cost but can make an enormous difference to safety in the home. We recommend that the Government introduce 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.

41   See, for example, Ev 299, para 1 [Department for Communities and Local Government], Ev w172 [Colin Wardle], Ev w183 [Reads Davies Estate Agents & Valuers], Ev 190 [Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors]. Back

42   Ev 137, para 20 Back

43   Ev 152, para 3.3 Back

44   As above Back

45   See also Ev 143 [Local Government Association] for further examples of good practice. Back

46   See, for example, Ev w271, para 48 [Houselet Direct]. Back

47   Q 60 Back

48   Ev w342 Back

49   Q 707 Back

50   Local Government Association website: Back

51   Ev w76-77, para 4.17 [Pennine Lancashire Local Authorities]; see also, for example, Ev w28, para 3 [Nicholas Nicol], Ev w30 [Luke Gidney], Ev w65, para 3.1 [Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council], Ev 214, para 4.17 [Blackpool Borough Council], Ev 308 [Note of meeting with tenants in Leeds]. Back

52   Ev w342, para 11 Back

53   See, for example, Ev w113 [Save the Children UK], Ev 158, para 2.20 [Citizens Advice], Ev 288, para 5.2 [District Councils' Network], Evs w310 and w312, paras 4.1 and 5.3 [Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea]. Back

54   Q 270 Back

55   Q 554 Back

56   Ev 294 Back

57   Q 668 Back

58   Q 564 Back

59   Q 563 Back

60   Shelter, Policy Briefing: Rewarding Rogues? Housing benefit and rogue landlords, September 2012, p 2 Back

61   Q 565 Back

62   Q 747 Back

63   Ev w224-w225, para 3.10 Back

64   Ev w195, para 2.2 Back

65   Ev w195-w196, para 2.6 Back

66   Ev w197, para 3.2-3 Back

67   See, for example, Ev w59 [Tessa Shepperson], Ev w164 [Digs], Ev w196, para 2.7 [Association of Tenancy Relations Officers], Ev w249, para 14 [North West Housing Law Practitioners Association]. Back

68   Ev w249, para 14 Back

69   Julie Rugg and David Rhodes, The Private Rented Sector, Its Contribution and Potential, Centre for Housing Policy University of York, 2008, p xxiii Back

70   Ev 245, para 4.5 Back

71   Q 641 Back

72   Q 708 Back

73   Housing Act 2004 as interpreted in Selective Licensing of Privately Rented Housing, House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/SP/4634, 16 June 2010 Back

74   Housing Act 2004, section 80(3) Back

75   Housing Act 2004, section 80(6) Back

76   The Housing Act 2004 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Selective Licensing of other Residential Accommodation (England) General Approval 2010; see also "John Healey: Greater council powers to give housing help for private tenants", DCLG press release, 1 April 2010; see also: Selective Licensing of Private Rented Housing", House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/SP/4634, 16 June 2010. Back

77   Q 529; for more information on the outcomes of the scheme so far, see Ev 268 [Leeds City Council]. Back

78   Ev 308 Back

79   Ev 223, para 2.1 Back

80   Q 344 Back

81   As above Back

82   As above Back

83   Form supplied to the Committee (unpublished) Back

84   Newham Council, Private Rented Property Licensing Guide for Landlords and Managing Agents, available at Back

85   Ev 236 Back

86   As above Back

87   Ev 268 Back

88   As above Back

89   Q 679 Back

90   Q 711 Back

91   See Ev 151, para 1.1 [Residential Landlords Association], Ev 226, para 26 [National Landlords Association] and Ev 296 [London Borough of Camden]. Back

92   Ev 230 Back

93   As above Back

94   Ev 130, para 3.10 Back

95   Ev 238 Back

96   "Mayor sets out proposals to empower tenants and landlords in the private rented sector", Greater London Authority press release, 13 December 2012 Back

97   Ev 288, para 5.1 Back

98   Q 331 Back

99   Ev 268 Back

100   As above Back

101   As above Back

102   Ev 214, para 4.19 Back

103   The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) England Order 2006 (SI 2006/371) Back

104   The Housing Act 2004 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Selective Licensing of other Residential Accommodation (England) General Approval 2010 See also Department for Communities and Local Government, Approval steps for additional and selective licensing designations in England, November 2006, p 4 and Houses in Multiple Occupation House of Commons Library Standard Note, SN/SP/708, November 2010, p 14. Back

105   Housing Act 2004, section 56; see also Houses in Multiple Occupation, House of Commons Library Standard Note, SN/SP/708, November 2010, p 15. Back

106   Ev 283, para 20 Back

107   Ev w184 Back

108   Ev 226 Back

109   Ev 281, para 7 Back

110   Ev 281, paras 8.1-2 Back

111   See, for example, Ev w15 [Lorraine Barter], Ev w17 [Stewart Morris], Ev w146 [Nottingham Action Group on HMOs], Ev w279 [Storer and Ashby Residents' Group]. Back

112   Q 612 Back

113   As above Back

114   Q 611 Back

115   Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 allows local authorities to remove permitted development rights. In these instances, local authorities have removed permitted development rights allowing change of use from dwellinghouse (class C3) to HMO (class C4). Planning permission is therefore required when change of use from C3 to C4 is sought. Back

116   Ev w184; see also, for example, Ev 266 [Leeds City Council], Ev 257-258, para 21 [City of York Council], Ev w223, para 2.6 [Haringey Council], Ev w305, para 1.4 [Nottingham City Council]. Back

117   See, for example, Ev w23 [Finders Keepers], Ev w98 [SpareRoom], Ev 275, para 30 [National Union of Students], Ev w231 [Nottingham Students Union]. Back

118   Ev 152, para 2.7 Back

119   Ev w287, overview Back

120   See, for example, Ev w 48, para 4.2 [Keith Williams], Ev 147, para [National Private Tenants Organisation]. Back

121   Ev w288, para 12 Back

122   Ev w289, para 17 Back

123   Q 712 Back

124   Ev 171, Annex 4; see also Ev 147, para [National Private Tenants Association]. Back

125   Ev w319 Back

126   Communities and Local Government Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2010-12, Building Regulations applying to electrical and gas installations in dwellings, HC 1851, para 24 Back

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Prepared 18 July 2013