Rental reforms will fail without enforcement, warns APPG

MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group have warned that government reforms to the PRS will fail without sufficient resources to ensure they can be enforced.

Related topics:  PRS,  Government,  Renters Reform Bill
Property | Reporter
14th December 2023
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"The Government needs to provide substantial multi-year funding to ensure councils have the resources they need to enforce the planned decent homes standard and ensure all rented homes are safe and secure"
- Andrew Lewer MBE MP - APPG

The APPG for the Private Rented Sector has published views from across the sector on the future of the rental market.

Measures set out in the Renters (Reform) Bill include the development of a new decent homes standard for the private rented sector, a new Property Portal for rental housing and the end of section 21.

A common theme among all those who contributed to the publication was the need to take steps to address the actions of rogue and criminal landlords.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, spoke of the need to “help local authorities to crack down on criminal behaviour” whilst the Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, Ben Beadle, warned that: “the Government must prioritise enforcement of regulations to stamp out illegal activity.” Similarly, the Centre for Social Justice has called for investment in enforcement capacity.

However, the cross-party group of MPs and peers is seriously concerned that local authorities will struggle to enforce planned changes without a significant boost to their resources. This follows a warning from the Local Government Association which explains that almost 1 in 5 local authorities expect to serve a section 114 notice in the next year.

In its evidence to the Renters (Reform) Public Bill Committee, the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health warned that the number of environmental health officers (EHOs) is “not sufficient to deal with the existing numbers of tenant complaints.” It cited data showing that for every 10,000 private rented homes, there were less than 3 EHOs.

The APPG has also expressed concerns that renters and responsible landlords will likely struggle to defend their rights in the courts when section 21, ‘no fault’ evictions are scrapped.

With the end of section 21 likely to lead to an increase in contested possession hearings heard by the courts, the Law Society notes how “the courts are vastly overstretched: possession claims and the eviction process can take many months, sometimes more.”

The APPG is concerned not just about how long the justice system is likely to take to process legitimate possession claims under the new system, but also about the ability of tenants to uphold their rights.

42% of people in England and Wales currently have no access to a legal aid provider in their area equipped with expertise in housing law. The President of the Law Society has stated that reforms in the Bill will be “in vain” without greater investment in legal aid.

Andrew Lewer MBE MP, the Chair of the APPG for the Private Rented Sector, said: “It is vital that the Bill provides security to tenants, gives confidence to responsible landlords and roots out rogue and criminal landlords providing sub-standard housing.

“However, none of this will be possible without robust enforcement of the powers being proposed.

“The Government needs to provide substantial multi-year funding to ensure councils have the resources they need to enforce the planned decent homes standard and ensure all rented homes are safe and secure.

“Likewise, tenants and landlords need to be confident that they will be able to enforce their rights in court in a timely and effective way when section 21 ends. It is simply unacceptable that ministers have provided scant detail about what improvements to the justice system will look like and when they will happen.”

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