Friday, 3 January 2014

Tackling the issue of poor landlords in Parliament continues ...

I continue to make the case in Parliament that standards in the private rented sector should guarantee to tenants similar standards as to tenants in the social rented sector (Housing Associations).

I have received two items of correspondence on this matter last month (full letter at bottom of article). The second is the most interesting. The first is to confirm that both Councils in the constituency, Hyndburn Council and Rossendale Council (Haslingden area) are to receive a small grant sum to help tackle further the issue of poor landlords. Particularly the £79,000 directly to Rossendale Council to tackle specifically poor landlords in Haslingden.Whilst this will make a small difference, it will resolve the fundamental issues of endemic poor standards.

The second I have received is a response from the minister (full letter at bottom of article) on this second more crucial point. Poor standards. His reply is interesting I have added my comments (in red) in the passage of his reply.

In short the minister in his letter says; " (The Government) has been made clear that there are no plans to amend the current legislative framework or introduce new regulations in this area." I would ask the question what value can come out of wide ranging review - which it clearly is - where the options will be limited before any assessment has been made.

There is a real danger that this is an exercise in kicking an empty can the road. A can with nothing in it and which puts off dealing with high concentrations of substandard housing in the private rented sector.

From Housing Minister; Kris Hopkins MP
"We have received almost 200 responses (from Councils). Of those fourteen had introduced selective licensing while 110 had introduced a voluntary licensing scheme.

We announced a tenants package on 16th October to help ensure that hard working tenants get a better deal when they rent a home (how will this reach vulnerable tenants and what support can they expect?). This will include a wide ranging review into the condition of properties in the sector (methodolgy? scope? and if it reveals concentrations of substandard housing, what then?) so we can ensure tenants are satisfied that their homes are safe and healthy (h&s by what measurement, current failing HHSRS?), what standards of hygiene and sanitation (see note 1 below) they can expect and how they will be protected from damp or excess cold. The review will also specifically consider whether private sector landlords should be required (legislated?) to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their property (this is a change from reactive to pro-ative - see note 2). In addition, the review will also consider the scope for requiring landlords to repay rent where a property is found to have serious hazards (require legislation)."
Note 1 - (current HHSR regs on hygiene and sanitation). It does not regulate to include a modern clean kitchen for example.
This category covers hazards which can result from:
a) poor design, layout and construction such that the property cannot be readily kept clean and hygienic;
b) access into, and harbourage within the property for pests; and
c) inadequate and unhygienic provision for storing and disposal of household waste. Ensure soil and waste drainage is in good repair. Floors and other surfaces should be capable of being cleaned.
Note 2 - (current HHSR guidance) It does not mandate unless a problem is found and only upon an inspection
.. (can require action where) .. hazards resulting from the presence of excess levels in the atmosphere within the property of:
a) carbon monoxide
b) nitrogen dioxide
c) sulphur dioxide and smoke