The private rented sector in England has doubled in size in the last 20 years and now houses 11 million people. However, the sector is failing far too often to provide safe and secure homes for renters, with 13% (589,000) of privately rented properties currently posing a serious threat to the health and safety of renters, costing the NHS an estimated £340 million each year. Tenants are unable to realise their right to a safe and secure home due to an inaccessible and complex regulatory framework and the threat of retaliatory eviction.
Regulation by local authorities is under capacity and not providing appropriate and consistent protection for tenants. The sector is a postcode lottery of local authority enforcement, with 21% of all privately rented homes in one region estimated to be severely unsafe. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (the Department) does not know what base level of resource local authorities need to ensure landlords comply with legal minimum standards, and it is not proactive enough in supporting them to regulate effectively.
Despite these systemic issues, the Department 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 intends to address problems within the sector with a planned White Paper later in the year. However, to do so it will need better data to understand issues within the sector and to evaluate the impact of legislative changes on landlords, tenants, the housing market as a whole and the effectiveness of regulation.