Last week the government issued a press statement on the  “A Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper“. This was to launch the start of a consultation until 14th October 2022 on the “Decent Homes Standard”, which is part of the Renters’ Reform Bill and aimed towards the private rental Sector.

According to government statistics, 79% of properties in the private rental sector already meet the current standards, and therefore won’t require any additional investment. A September 2021 report – “The Good Home Inquiry”, states that 2.5 million owner occupied homes fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard, with over two million of those containing a serious hazard. 12% of those poor-quality homes are owned by local authorities and housing associations

The Decent Homes Standard is based on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which introduced in July 2006, is a risk-based assessment, that identifies hazards in homes and determines whether residential premises are safe to live in. The HHSRS assesses 29 categories of housing hazards, including items like “Structural collapse and falling elements”, “Radiation”, “Electrical Hazards” as well as categories including “Excess Cold” or “Excess Heat”, “Water” and “Carbon Monoxide”

These hazards are then divided into two categories. Those which score high on the scale (and therefore the greatest risk) are called Category 1 hazards. Those that fall lower down the scale and pose a lesser risk are called Category 2 hazards. Where a condition is classified as a Category 1 hazard, the local authority has a duty to take the appropriate enforcement action. If it poses a Category 2 hazard, the local authority may take enforcement action.

 The white paper itself defines “decent”, as a home that is “free from the most serious health and safety hazards, such as fall risks, fire risks, or carbon monoxide poisoning”. It also states a home must “provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort, be in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and services”. These standards are already in place for social housing, although the word “reasonable” is of course subjective. The aim seems to be, to get landlords to have a legal duty to keep their properties in order, so that problems are sorted before they deteriorate too far and become major issues. With this legislation, breaches could become criminal offences.

According to the latest English Housing Survey, almost 85% of England’s housing stock was built before 1990. Over a third of those were built before 1945 and one in five homes more than a century ago. With the current rate of replacing existing homes, it is thought that 80% of residential building in use at the moment will still be in use way past 2050.