House of Commons Library

Housing fitness in the private rented sector

Published Tuesday, May 24, 2016

This paper looks at current legislation regulating property standards in the private rented sector, and at current debates over whether there should be a legal minimum maintenance standard for rented homes.

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The private rented sector (PRS) houses more households in England than the social rented sector, but has the highest proportion of poor property standards of any tenure type. The 2014/15 English Housing Survey found that 29% of private rented properties would fail the Government’s decent homes standard for social housing, compared to 14% of social housing.

There are numerous regulations in place for private landlords which govern their requirements to carry out repairs and maintenance. The main one of these is the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), a risk-assessment based regulatory model.

Since the introduction of the HHSRS in 2006, replacing the old Housing Fitness Standard, there have effectively been no minimum property standards for rented housing in England.

A recent Private Member’s Bill from Karen Buck MP and Labour amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 have both unsuccessfully attempted to reintroduce a ‘fitness for human habitation’ minimum standard of property maintenance.

This briefing paper looks at the main debates around a minimum property standard, compared to a risk-assessment based model. These include regulatory burden on landlords and inconsistent interpretation and enforcement of the HHSRS.

As housing is a devolved policy area, different approaches to regulating PRS property standards have emerged in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are also examined in further detail.

This briefing paper focuses on the debates around the regulatory regime for property health and safety standards in the private rented sector, including the HHSRS. More information on the HHSRS itself can be found in the Commons Library briefing paper, The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7328

Author: Alex Bate

Topics: Housing standards, Private rented housing

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