Private rented housing

This section explains government policy for strengthening the private rented sector through improved standards of the quality of its properties and landlords' management of those properties and tenancies.

It points out a range of statutory requirements (such as licensing) and voluntary schemes (such as accreditation) that landlords and tenants should be aware of and includes links to useful information for tenants and landlords.

News releases

On 3 February 2010, Housing Minister John Healey announced a new package of measures designed to provide practical help and protection for tenants in privately rented homes.

The package of measures, which includes a new housing hotline offering free help for private tenants is outlined in the document  The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps. The document also confirms the Government's intention to bring in legislation to introduce a National Register of Landlords and better regulation of letting and managing agents.

This follows on from the Government's response to the independent, Review of Private Rented Sector Housing (external link), headed by Julie Rugg of the University of York which can be found in the document - The private rented sector: professionalism and quality - The Government response to the Rugg Review Consultation.

Communities and Local Government's policy on the private rented sector

Private rented housing is a vital and growing part of the housing market (almost 14 per cent of all households, or nearly three million homes in England).

The sector has been changing: Buy to Let  has brought better quality property into the sector - but also many more smaller investors. The private rented sector (PRS):

  • offers a flexible form of tenure and widens choice and meets a wide range of  housing needs, including those receiving Housing Benefit
  • contributes to greater labour market mobility
  • is increasingly the tenure of choice for the young (45 per cent of heads of household in the PRS are under 30, compared to 23 per cent in social renting and 32 per cent in owner occupation)
  • has responded to the growth in student numbers (although this may have led to the studentification of some areas).

The Government wants to strengthen the private rented sector through improved standards of the quality of its properties and landlords' management of those properties and tenancies.

Key existing measures are:

  • the provisions of the Housing Act 2004, including:
    • from 6 April 2006 mandatory licensing of larger Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which pose the greatest risk to the health and safety of occupiers and often pose the greatest management challenges
    • local authority powers to take over the management of the poorest managed private rented properties in their areas, through management orders
    • from 6 April 2007, tenants' deposits are required to be protected in a designated scheme.  This means that when a tenant has paid a deposit and is entitled to get it back, he or she will have the assurance that it will be given back
    • the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Local authorities can now assess the severity of health hazards such as electrical hazards, cold and damp and decide on the appropriate action to remove or reduce hazards
  • encouraging voluntary measures such as accreditation and landlords forums, and
  • encouraging local authorities and private landlords to work together in meeting housing need.

The package of measures announced on 3 February includes:

  • a new housing hotline offering free help and advice for private tenants should things go wrong
  • exploration of the potential for an online word-of-mouth directory of landlords similar to the tripadvisor (a holiday review and comparison) website
  • a requirement for written tenancy agreements that will strengthen the hand of tenants should they face a dispute and ensure all tenants and landlords are clear of their rights and responsibilities
  • boosting the number of tenants protected under the most commonly used tenancy agreement. An increase of the short-term rental threshold to £100,000 a year will mean that many shared households, most often those of students or seasonal workers, will have their rights strengthened and protected by legislation should they face a dispute
  • A National Register for Landlords to help tenants make basic checks on their prospective landlords. Councils will be able to identify local landlords more easily, making enforcement of letting rules easier, and registered landlords will gain access to the latest advice and information on what their role entails and how best to fulfil their responsibilities
  • better regulation of letting and managing agents, which will help tackle the rogue agents who can drag the reputation of the Private Rented Sector down. Full legislation will drive out the worst practices such as wrongful eviction, raise standards and provide greater protection for both tenants and landlords in cases of dispute.  
  • work is also currently underway with councils across England to encourage best practice in taking a more business-friendly approach to working with the best landlords and agents in their area. Creating Local Letting Agencies, where councils and good landlords work together to help local people find better-quality homes in the private rented sector will help to effectively side-line the cowboys across the country.

Information for landlords

Landlords can benefit from belonging to a local accreditation scheme - a set of standards (or codes) relating to the management or physical condition of privately rented accommodation. Landlords who join a scheme and abide by the standards are accredited. Although voluntary there may be many advantages to those who join.

The Letting your property pages of the Directgov website (external link) provide further information on accreditation and on landlords' rights and responsibilities.

The Business Link website also carries some information about the responsibilities of residential landlords.

Communities and Local Government also publishes booklets for landlords (and Assured Tenancy Forms) (available to order or download).

Information for tenants

The Private renting pages of the Directgov website  (external link) provide information on tenants' rights and responsibilities and the different types of private tenancy arrangements.

Communities and Local Government also publishes booklets for tenants (and Assured Tenancy Forms) (available to order or download).

Key search terms:  Private rented sector, PRS, private rented housing, licensing, accreditation, landlord, tenant

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