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 23 October 2008, the independent review into the Private Rented Sector (PRS) was launched. The report, Review of Private Rented Sector Housing (external link), headed by Julie Rugg of the University of York, contains major recommendations to improve the Private Rented Sector for both tenants and landlords. Housing Minister Margaret Beckett welcomed the report, see News Release: Creating a less risky rental market for Landlords and Tenants - 23 October 2008, and said the Government agrees with the need to improve the sector for both landlords and tenants and would carefully consider the findings before deciding next steps.

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 12 per cent of all households, 11 per cent of housing stock). Almost 2.6 million homes in England are rented from over half a million landlords.

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 (48 per cent of heads of household in the PRS are under 35, compared to 20 per cent in social renting and 13 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 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 will mean 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.

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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