The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has warned of risks within the flagship recommendation of the academic review into the private rented sector.
The Evolving Private Rented Sector, published today, is an academic review carried out by Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes, researchers at the University of York, and seeks to answers many questions about the state of play of the private rented sector and highlight what still needs to be answered.
One of the key recommendations from the report is that every property in the private rented sector should have an ‘MOT’ style check before being rented out. The Review proposes that this would be carried out by a suitably qualified professional, either from local authorities or the private sector, and paid for by the landlord. The aim is to ensure that the house is “decent and suitable for living in”, as well as being free of hazards.
Although this recommendation has the potential to improve conditions for renters and remove the postcode lottery element of housing enforcement, it is a significant leap and comes with a number of risks and questions:
- Who will be the privately paid professionals to provide an MOT certificate and who will regulate them to avoid corruption?
- What power will this “MOT check” have in potentially preventing enforcement work by local authorities?
- We are not sure what effect the “MOT check” system would have on the already scarce resources from local authorities for housing enforcement work.
Whilst CIEH supports more checks for privately rented housing in principle, it has called for these questions to be carefully considered before the Government fully embraces the proposed “MOT check” system.
CIEH has strongly welcomed the Review’s additional recommendations calling for the licensing and registration of all landlords, and stricter standards to be upheld for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), where people from different households live together and share amenities.
Tamara Sandoul, Housing Manager for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said:
“This Review makes some bold and strategic recommendations about reform to the private rented sector. Whilst an MOT-style scheme sounds like a simple solution which could bring big improvements to rented housing, it also comes with some serious risks attached.
One of these is local authorities being left with few resources to investigate any corruption or fraud within such a system. The detailed design and implementation is key to an MOT-style system that is an improvement on the status quo.
The environmental health profession would support more private rented housing being inspected regularly, but we need to ensure that the people doing the inspections are fully qualified to make this kind of assessment. Getting the incentives right for any private contractors is also critical, as landlords would be paying for a service and expecting a certificate at the end.
The licensing or registration of all landlords is particularly important and is a recommendation we fully support – providing someone with a safe home requires knowledge and responsibility. Unfortunately, most landlords are currently operating anonymously. Bringing this profession out into the open is key to instilling a sense of duty and care that landlords owe to their tenants.”
Notes to Editors
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About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):
CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing more than 8,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved.
Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.