There were rumours circulating a couple of weeks ago that the upcoming Renters Reform Bill may not ever see the light of day. The government were apparently considering pulling back considering the matter to be not an emergency. This was later addressed by then Prime Minister Liz Truss in Prime Minister’s Questions who confirmed that the legislation which is highlighted by a ban on section 21 notices was still very much on the agenda. Therefore, whilst we cannot be certain of anything at the moment, it makes sense to look ahead to see what this will mean moving forwards and we will start with the Decent Homes Standard.
The White Paper for the Renters Reform Bill set out what was going to be included in the upcoming legislation. One of the key elements of this is that housing conditions will be monitored more strictly and when a property is let to a tenant, the property needs to be kept to a suitable standard. The Decent Homes Standard already exists in the social rental sector and has done for many years. The Renters Reform Bill would see a mirroring of this standard in the private rental sector. In the white paper ‘Decent’ was defined as:
‘To be ‘decent’ we will require that a home must be free from the most serious health and safety hazards, such as fall risks, fire risks, or carbon monoxide poisoning. It is unacceptable that hazardous conditions should be present in people’s homes when they can be fixed with something as simple as providing a smoke detector or a handrail to a staircase.
I appreciate that the above does not really offer too much in the way of certainly and so the next paragraph from the white paper may assist with this:
‘As part of the pathway to applying the Decent Homes Standard to the PRS, we will complete our review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This system is used to assess the seriousness of hazardous conditions (one element of the Decent Homes Standard), including things like fire and falls but also excess cold (which is common in the sector) and excess heat (which is a growing concern in light of the changing climate). The review is due to conclude in autumn 2022. We want to make it easier for landlords and tenants to understand the standards required, supporting increased compliance. The review will streamline the process that local councils take in inspecting properties to assess hazards.
The scope therefore is unknown at the moment but much like the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, it will use the HHSRS as the benchmark for any such requirement. In our previous blog on noise complaints we mentioned that part of the recommendations made by the Housing Ombudsman were for the Decent Homes Standard to be updated regarding noise. I would expect this to be the case with a number of the elements of the HHSRS. Rather than a re-writing, potentially an updating of the rating system to make it more relevant for the current conditions of properties.
As soon as we know the result of the review promised in the white paper, we can go into more detail on this but for now the current Decent Homes Standard and the current HHSRS can be used as a starting guide.
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