The majority of councils in England want to play a greater role in the private rented sector, reveals new research by the LGiU in partnership with the Electrical Safety Council (ESC).
The research shows that 8 out of 10 councils want to engage more actively in the private rented sector and nearly 95 per cent think they have ‘an important role to play’.
The findings come in the wake of the London Borough of Newham’s launch of England’s first council-wide, compulsory licensing scheme for private landlords. The scheme, which came into force in January 2013, affects 35,000 private tenants in the borough.
LGiU/ESC research shows that nearly a third of council respondents would consider introducing similar schemes in their local area – in a bid to reduce health and safety risks in properties and to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords. 6 out of 10 were already considering investing in further training and support for private landlords.
Gas and electrical safety, fire safety and management standards, emerged as the top concerns driving councils to take more action in the private rented sector. Currently, there is no statutory requirement for private landlords to provide an electrical safety certificate before letting out a home, although a requirement for gas certificates has been compulsory since 1998. This disparity ignores the fact that, according to government statistics, over half of all accidental fires in GB homes – around 20,000 each year – are caused by electricity.
Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council said:
“Despite the fact that electrical accidents are the number one cause of domestic fires in Great Britain, most landlords are not legally required to have their electrics checked or provide their tenants with safety certificates. With increasing numbers of people renting privately, it is imperative that proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety. So, while we favour additional electrical safety requirements for the PRS at a national level, we applaud and encourage all Local Authorities taking a pro-active approach to improving their local housing stock.”
LGiU Chief Executive Jonathan Carr-West added:
“The number of people living in the private rented sector is increasing dramatically. The 2011 census shows the number of private renters in England and Wales has jumped from 1.9 million in 2001 to 3.6 million in 2011 – an increase of 88 per cent. It’s understandable that councils are considering a range of options to make sure their residents have suitable living standards.
“This taken with the changes to welfare mean that councils more than ever need to have an understanding of the housing stock available in their areas. What is the state of this stock? Is it safe and suitable for habitation? How does the private sector interact with council and housing association stock? These are all timely questions which councils should be asking of their landlords and it is very positive to see local government prepared to take a lead role to determine the living conditions of people in their areas.”
Notes for Editors
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Electrical Safety Council
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The 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.
Survey – key statistics
- 257 individuals responded to the survey, representing 175 councils.
- Of these, 88 were Conservative Councils, 54 were Labour, seven were Liberal Democrat and 25 were NOC (one was the City of London). 117 were districts, 23 were unitaries, 17 were metropolitan boroughs, 14 were London boroughs and three were county councils.
- Roughly 70 per cent of responses were from officers, made up largely of heads of service and third tier housing managers, and 30 per cent were from councillors, of whom three quarters were portfolio holders for this area.