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NAO ‘concern’ over regulation of private renting

Latest National Audit Office (NAO) report shows that private renting in England is ineffectively regulated
05 January 2022 , Steve Smethurst

Report reveals that around 13% of private rented homes have at least one category 1 hazard, posing a serious threat to health and safety, yet also highlights the numerous obstacles faced by local authorities in addressing the issue.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the way private renting is regulated is ineffective in ensuring the sector is consistently fair for renters or that housing is safe and secure. Among the headline findings of Regulation of Private Renting, published in December 2021, are that an estimated 13% of private rented homes (589,000 properties) have at least one category 1 hazard. Also, that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) does not have a detailed plan to address the problems. 

Gareth Davies, the Head of the NAO, said the findings were ‘concerning’. He said: “The DLUHC should improve the quality of its data and insight into the private rented sector, so that it can oversee the regulation of the sector more effectively.”

There are an estimated 4.4 million privately rented households in England, and local authorities choose how they regulate based on their local priorities. The report found that the more active a local authority is in inspecting privately rented properties, the more likely it is to have seen better compliance with energy efficiency requirements. The report also found that local authorities that were most active in inspecting properties had “significantly fewer” category 1 health and safety hazards than the least active.

Freedom of Information data supplied by 81 authorities in 2019-20 indicated that numbers of inspections ranged from 24.2% to just 0.1% of all privately rented properties within the authority. However, the NAO highlighted the many obstacles the local authorities face, including limited resources and the complexity of the legislative framework.

“Environmental health teams work hard to improve conditions within their local budgetary and resource constraints, but more help is needed from central Government to make the system of regulation more efficient and effective.”

CIEH Policy and Campaigns Manager, Tamara Sandoul said: “We still have a long way to go to improve conditions in the private rented sector to ensure all renters have a safe and healthy place to call home. Environmental health teams work hard to improve conditions within their local budgetary and resource constraints, but more help is needed from central Government to make the system of regulation more efficient and effective.

“CIEH has long advocated for a national registration scheme for all landlords and those managing private rented sector property. This information would be valuable to tenants, who would be able to check whether their landlord has been previously prosecuted for housing offences.

“For local authorities and central government, the information about the sector would be invaluable for better targeting of resources and better enforcement strategies to improve housing conditions. For landlords, there would be an immediate and clear incentive to comply with their legal duties.

“Of course, such a system would also need to be underpinned by the removal of no-fault eviction grounds for tenants, to give them more security and confidence to complain to the local authority or to take their own action against landlords, who are not keeping their properties in a safe condition.”

The DLUHC told the NAO that it is “currently defining the strategic objectives of its reform programme”

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