Viewpoint: how councils can raise standards in the private rented sector

Viewpoint

Phil Buckle HeadshotThis month the LGiU and the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) launched a new report focusing on the relationship between local authorities and the private rented sector (PRS). House Proud: how councils can raise standards in the private rented sector, used original research to identify examples of best practice and make a series of recommendations for central and local government. Phil Buckle, Director General of the ESC explains why councils play such an important role in promoting better health and safety in the PRS.

Significantly, almost two-thirds of English Councils took part in the House Proud report, which strongly recommends the need for local authority empowerment to tackle poor standards in the PRS.

However, this balanced report also notes that there are many good landlords out there, who we don’t want to be penalised. Just under 90 per cent of local authorities surveyed agreed, or strongly agreed, that: “The council has a good relationship with private sector landlords”. And, among the recommendations in the report, is the idea that councils engage with the best landlords to encourage self-regulation. A series of case studies within the report also illustrate some of the innovative approaches being developed on a local level.

One study outlines the partnership between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and the South East Alliance of Landlords, Agents and Residents (SEAL). Landlords or agents joining SEAL must sign a Code of Conduct and liaise with the council when issuing a Notice to Quit – ensuring tenants can get immediate advice from Housing Officers and avoiding unnecessary evictions. Additionally, such partnership working has freed up council resources for enforcement activities against ‘rogue’ landlords. And in Liverpool, the City’s Ten Point Pledge to drive up standards in the sector includes an advisory panel, comprised of landlords, lettings and managing agents.

With increasing numbers of people renting privately, it is imperative that appropriate regulations – and local enforcement – are in place to ensure their safety. For example, although it’s recognised that electrical accidents cause over half of Great Britain’s domestic fires, landlords are not required by law to have the electrics in their rented properties checked – or provide tenants with safety certificates.

The ESC has long called for additional PRS safety requirements at a national level. But given the diversity of local issues impacting on the sector, we also recognise the need for local councils to be given the freedom to deal with the specific problems in their area. We have already worked closely with Newham, when they were developing their Landlord Licensing Scheme and we aim to expand our engagement with other Local Authorities in the future.  Our partnership with LGiU in developing this report is part of this engagement and proof of our desire to support the improvement of safety in the PRS at a local level.

To read the full report, please follow this link.

To read the press release, please follow this link.

For more information, please contact Andrew Walker, Policy Researcher on andrew.walker@lgiu.org.uk, LGiU or Daniel Walker-Nolan, Policy and Research Manager, ESC on daniel.walker-nolan@esc.org.uk