Local authorities need greater freedom to enforce standards in the private rented sector.
Central government bureaucracy is undermining the ability of councils to tackle poor standards in the private rented sector (PRS), according to research published today by think tank LGiU and the Electrical Safety Council (ESC).
The rapid growth of the PRS  has created new challenges, with 35 per cent of such properties posing a threat to people’s health and safety by failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard .
Local authorities are responsible for ensuring adequate standards in the sector, but to do this effectively they must be able to operate freely without excessive central control.
The House Proud report calls for central government to cut red tape and give councils the freedom they need to respond flexibly to the needs of their communities.
Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU, commented:
“The massive growth of the private rented sector presents a variety of challenges. Whilst the majority of the private rented sector properties meet appropriate standards, a minority of landlords actively pursue criminal activity to the detriment of those living in their properties.
“Councils can play a key role in tackling poor standards in the private rented sector, but to do this effectively, they must be freed from central government red tape. There is no one-size-fits-all model. Rather, local authorities must be given the freedom and capacity to respond to the needs and issues in their areas.”
Phil Buckle, Director General of the ESC, agrees:
“With increasing numbers of people renting privately, it is imperative that proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety. For example, although it’s recognised that electrical accidents cause over half of Great Britain’s domestic fires, landlords are not required to have the electrics in their rented properties checked – or provide tenants with safety certificates.
“And, while we would like to see additional safety requirements for the PRS at a national level, we wholeheartedly support empowering local councils to address the safety of housing in their areas. We’ve been working with proactive councils such as Newham to discuss their approach to safety in the PRS, and intend to do so more widely.”
Measures to give councils more freedom included:
- Amending the 2004 Housing Act, which currently prevents councils from licensing accommodation on the basis of poor conditions.
- Give councils more power to recoup the costs of enforcements
- Allow councils to choose to introduce compulsory accreditation
The recommendations are based on evidence taken from a survey of 178 councils, and a series of in-depth interviews with local housing teams.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said that resource was a major barrier to better engagement with the PRS and a number drew attention to the issue of restrictions.
However, there is a clear desire for a more proactive relationship, with almost 8 out of 10 respondents stating that they wanted to be more closely involved in the private rented sector in the future.
Notes to Editors
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A full copy of the report is available here: https://lgiu.org/house-proud-how-councils-can-raise-standards-in-the-private-rented-sector/
 Over the decade to 2011, the number of households in England and Wales who were renting privately nearly doubled to reach 3.6 million
Office for National Statistics (April 19, 2013) A Century of Home Ownership and Renting in England and Wales (full story)
 The Decent Homes Standard is the technical standard for public housing.
Department for Communities and Local Government (February 2013) English Housing Survey Headline Report 2011-12
The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is an award winning think tank and membership organisation. Our mission is to strengthen local democracy to put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services.
Our team of policy experts and other staff provides practical policy advice, learning and development programmes, events and conferences, consultancy and other resources to our members and other organisations.
About the Electrical Safety Council
The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) is a campaigning charity dedicated to preventing deaths, injuries and damage caused by electricity. With a significant level of in-house technical expertise, we are widely respected by industry, government and consumers.
For more information, please contact:
- Daniel Walker-Nolan, ESC Policy and Research Manager – Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 02034 635131
- Angela Murphy – ESC Media Specialist – Angela.email@example.com. Tel: 02034 635127