Plan Insurance Blog

Private Landlords Targeted By Levelling Up Agenda

Private landlords will be required by law to upgrade their properties to a new set of national standards as part of the government’s levelling-up plan. The housing secretary, Michael Gove has revealed that he intends for landlords to refurbish approximately 800,000 UK properties.

The legislation aims to guarantee that properties in the rented property sector are “safe, warm and well kept.” Campaigners have been calling for these measures for a significant period. The private rental sector is effectively being brought in line with the standards imposed on councils and housing associations. Properties are required to be of a “decent” condition and these stipulations are also under review. They may well be toughened across the board. The English Housing Survey estimated that in 2019 over 1 million privately rented homes failed to reach minimal expectations. The stated aim is to reduce the volume of sub-standard rented homes by half by 2030.

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The housing secretary is a firm believer that poor housing stock play a significant role in maintaining social inequality. It can impact educational achievement as well as long-term health. The news law will also introduce a mandatory register for all private landlords. Those deemed to be “rouge landlords” will be banned from returning to the approved list. All tenants in the private rental sector will also “gain a new right to redress for complaints” about their homes if they fail to meet the requirement of being “safe, warm and in a good state of repair”. Along with minimum standards for fixtures and fittings in furnished rented accommodation, new specifications on energy efficiency could also feature.

Mr Gove’s overall levelling-up strategy includes 12 vital missions. The government’s declared focus on addressing longer-term societal imbalances aims to tackle the productivity gap between London and the rest of the country. Therefore a key component is investment on housing, business and leisure facilities, as well as transport infrastructure in twenty regions. The funds were assigned in the recent spending review and decision making authority on their allocation will be handed to local mayors.

Figures estimate that 19% of all households rent their home from a private landlord in England. That is nearly 4 and a half million families. 23% or 1.1 million of those failed to be classed as “decent.” The ratio of unsatisfactory properties is said to be far higher outside of London.

With those stark figures in mind it seems that the introduction of laws that will mean private sector requirements mirror those imposed on social housing, is a more than reasonable move. Fair and decent landlords will know that maintaining their properties at a good level is an honourable ambition as well as a wise financial move in the long-term. Any money spent will go towards protecting a valuable asset. The investment should help ensure a lower turnover of dissatisfied tenants, fewer prolonged periods with an empty property whilst substantial refurbishment is carried out due to neglect and rental yields being achieved at the expected market rate (as opposed to discounts being allowed if tenants overlook the shoddy state of the property.)

Though our full support of the measures is tempered by an awareness of the struggles faced by many landlords over recent times. The term “decent” is quite subjective and could be open to wide interpretation. We hope that a strong steer is provided by government and that national standards are clearly set out to avoid unreasonable expectations being imposed in a postcode lottery across various authorities. We have also spoken before regarding the need for greater protection or at least swifter means of intervention for landlords hit by “rouge tenants” who cause serious damage to property or habitually fail to pay rent despite having the funds available. The media coverage tends to paint tenants as the victim and that is not always the case. Improved safeguards for landlords could serve to encourage larger development funds with more confidence that their property will be treated with respect and their projected returns will be forthcoming.

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