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Renters Reform Bill and the PRS Decent Homes Standard

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The Decent Homes Standard is a standard that currently applies to all social housing in the UK. However, the government is introducing a Decent Homes Standard for the private rented sector in the Renters Reform Bill.

In this post I first explain what the Decent Homes Standard is for social housing, before discussing the plans to extend it to the private rented sector.

I keep this post updated.

Last updated: 17 November 2023

The Decent Homes Standard for social housing

The Decent Homes Standard is governed by Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004. The June 2006 guidance explains that for social housing home to be officially ‘decent’, it must:

  1. meet the current statutory minimum standard for housing
  2. be in a reasonable state of repair
  3. have reasonably modern facilities and services, and
  4. provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.

Additionally, a home in the social housing sector is not considered to have reasonably modern facilities if it lacks three or more of the following:

  • a reasonably modern kitchen (20 years old or less)
  • a kitchen with adequate space and layout
  • a reasonably modern bathroom (30 years old or less)
  • an appropriately located bathroom and WC
  • adequate insulation against external noise (where external noise is a problem), and
  • adequate size and layout of common areas for blocks of flats.

Consultation to introduce a Decent Homes Standard for the private rented sector

On 2 September 2022, the government launched a consultation on introducing a new Decent Homes Standard for the private rented sector.

After first giving background on the development of the Decent Homes Standard, it then outlines the government’s proposals for the PRS. As this is a consultation, the document asks renters, landlords, councils and housing groups for views on what the minimum standard for privately rented homes should be. It’s a detailed survey with 54 separate questions.

Although it proposes using the same four part test as for social housing above, it suggests several adjustments for the private rented sector. For instance, replacing the definition of reasonably modern facilities for social housing with something less prescriptive, which does not stipulate the maximum age of the kitchen or bathroom:

  • a kitchen with adequate space and layout, appropriate to the property (sink, cupboards, cooker space, worktops, etc)
  • an appropriately located bathroom and WC
  • adequate external noise insulation, and
  • adequate size and layout of common entrance areas for blocks of flats.

Proposed new criminal offence for private landlords

The government is proposing to give the new standard some “teeth” by making non-compliance a criminal offence.

They propose introducing a legal duty on private landlords to ensure their property meets the Decent Homes Standard. Landlords in breach of this requirement, as identified by a local council through an inspection, would be guilty of a criminal offence. This would be dealt with by either issuing a civil penalty or undertaking a prosecution in the magistrate’s court. 

The consultation further recommends that a failure to comply with this duty be made a banning order offence. This means that a landlord would be legally prohibited from letting properties, or engaging in letting agency or property management work.

You can find the full text of the consultation paper here.

The House of Commons Library published a report in December 2022, Housing conditions in the private rented sector (England), which is a useful summary of the status quo. It quotes The English Housing Survey that estimates that in 2021, 23% of homes (around one million homes) in the PRS in England were in a condition that would fail the Decent Homes Standard. This compares with 13% of owner-occupied homes and 10% of social housing.

The Decent Homes Standard and the Renters Reform Bill

There was no reference to the Decent Homes Standard in the 17 May 2023 version of the Renters Reform Bill. However, the government tabled amendments to the Bill on 15 November which amend the Housing Act 2004 to include a mechanism for applying the Decent Homes Standard to “qualifying residential premises”, including HMOs, that are not social housing (ie they are in the private rented sector).

A new Section 2A Housing Act 2004 grants the Secretary of State wide powers to “specify requirements to be met by qualifying residential premises” in regulations. The requirements may include (without limitation) the following:

  • the state of repair of the premises,
  • things to be provided for use by, or for the safety, security or comfort of, persons occupying the premises, and
  • the means of keeping the premises at a suitable temperature.

The government has not yet published the outcome of the consultations, or draft regulations. However, the press release that accompanied the tabling of the amendments on 15 December gives an indication of what is to come:

A Decent Homes Standard (DHS) will be applied to the private rented sector for the first time. The new standard will set a clear bar for what tenants should expect from their home ensuring it is safe, warm and decent. It will be set following further consultation and will help to meet the target of reducing non-decency in rented homes by 50% by 2030.

Local Authorities will be given new enforcement powers to require landlords to make properties decent, with fines up to £30,000 or a banning order in the worse cases. Tenants will also be able to claim up to 24 months rent back through rent repayment orders up from 12 previously.

Councils will also be given stronger powers to investigate landlords who rent substandard homes, providing them with the tools they need to identify and take enforcement action against the criminal minority and help drive them out of the sector.

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Watch this space – I will keep this page updated.

Last updated: 17 November 2023

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