Tuesday, 03 March 2015

PRS properties 'should meet decent homes test'

Private landlords should be forced to refurbish their homes to the equivalent of the decent homes standard, a leading Labour thinker has suggested.

Kitty Ussher, former treasury minister, made the call in an essay published by left-leaning think tank the Fabian Society, in a book entitled The Shape of Things to Come: Labour’s New Thinking, last month.

Ms Ussher said: ‘All landlords should be licensed and required to raise the quality of their homes to the decent home standard required by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

‘If they are unable to do so, they should hand over long-term management of their property to a social letting agency in return for a fixed, lower rate of return. The social lettings agency could raise funds on the open market, allocate on the basis of need and have a more supportive, community-based relationship with their tenants.’

Ms Ussher said unsuccessful Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone was correct to call for rent caps in London. She also said the only way to end inequality arising from the disparity of house prices across the country was to bring in ‘a property taxation system that is genuinely progressive’, although she concedes this would be a ‘political minefield’.  ‘Ultimately it is the only way to shift economic activity from the south-east to other regions,’ she said.

Housing minister Grant Shapps is opposed to rent controls in the private rented sector. He has repeatedly argued that the measure would lead to reduced investment in the PRS and lead to poorer quality of homes.

Readers' comments (26)

  • "hand over the lettign to a social letting agency"... but aren't these social letting agencies (I think we call them Housing Associations) obliged to only let houses that meet DH? Properties that don't/can't meet DH (I am thinking here of say older properties, perhaps in conservation areas) are then caught between a rock and a hard place: the owner has a choice: pull down and rebuild, or sell. And where sell is the only option, oops, slightly fewer rented properties available.

    Capping PRS rents would have the same effect: small-scale landlords, with one or two properties only, will just give up and sell the houses.

    I'm NOT advocating Rackmann-style property standards. And a low-standard PRS property will only ever be able to be let for a low rent. The landlord can therefore make their own mind up as to whether to have low revenue income or make a capital investment and get higher revenue income. Forcing the capital investment is just going to lead to fewer properties for renting.

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  • Private rental is and always will be self governing it is commercial enterprise and for making money. I cannot get a two bed house from my local Housing Association due to my children not living with me, but when they come to stay for the weekend where are they supposed to sleep (two girls and 1 boy)so private rented it is then!
    I am stuck and have to pay for it, £500.00 a month for an ex council house that does not have energy efficient windows, the central heating is a mixture of emperial and microbore and looses compression, the gas fire was condemed, the floor board are lifting the roof has leaked and we now have a hole in our bedroom ceiling. All work on the house is done cash in hand by afterwork on the side contractors and is well below sub standard. The kitchen units are nailed to the walls and when its windy our carpets upstairs lift due to the draft!! How will anybody ever control that?
    I have been on the list for housing 4 years and all Im offered is a 1 bed flat, maybe if I was a different nationality, didnt work, had a drink problem and endless kids that the government had to pay for I would be eligable for one of the new houses the local Housing Association are building at the back of my current home.

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  • KB- ever been homeless? "And a low-standard PRS property will only ever be able to be let for a low rent."- surely that depends on local demand? right now you can rent yourself a nice 1 bed flat in trendy part of hackney for as little as £1960 per WEEK- it more than meets DHS standards mind you- some local shelf stackers are settling for much lower standards of course- fact is we are returning to Ripoff and Rachmanesque renting-

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  • Social lettings agencies take a number of forms but are often set up by local authorities with or without housing association partners as a conduit for finding PRS homes for families they would otherwise have a duty to house in social housing. My 30 years experience of the PRS tells me that if landlords, large or small, are making more profit by renting than by placing their money elsewhere they will continue to do so, if not they will sell on. Even with a rent cap, the PRS is still likely to be seen as a good investment, but even if some landlords pull out does than really matter? After all, it's the boom in Buy-to-Let mortgages which has been largely instrumental in pushing house prices beyond the reach of would be home owners thus boosting demand for the PRS. If enough pulled out, house prices might come down, reversing this process - more home owners, less demand for PRS, lower market rents...

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  • Chris

    PRS homes can not be treated as social housing, so this Labour munchkin is spouting nonsense; however PRS homes do have to be fit for purpose under existing trading laws, and also fit for health under existing environmental health laws.

    What is deficit then is tenant access to have such laws applied and upheld in an age where access to the law is dependent upon your ability to fund legal actions without state support. Perhaps the Labour Party could look at this area of attack against the working class, and restore housing advice and legal aid access.

    Then, restoring other rights and legal protections for working people would be a natural step, as would restoring the provision of social housing for rent.

    What the little thinker is perhaps not understanding is the implication and outcome of the ditching of Clause 4, and how that has participated in the imbalance we know experience, and removed the means with which to address it.

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  • We should be thinking of ways of making it easier for people to access the private rented sector, not ways of loading additional costs to landlords. Existing legislation can be used where properties are 'unfit'. Better to look at this rather than 'gold plating'. This is a market and if standards become too onerous, many private landlords will withdraw, which is surely in nobody's interests?

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  • Why don't we let Housing Associations build properties for the open market? Of course I'd prefer genuine social housing but if that's not going to happen, I'd rather my landlord was a public body which takes its legal obligations seriously than a private individual who will evict me because I complain about the damp.

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  • Colin Mcculloch

    Of course, we're now utterly at the behest of private landlords thanks to the critical state of social housing across the UK. The best way around would be to impose a rent cap and decent homes test and if BTL landlords want to sell, then the local authority in that area should get first refusal to buy the property. Effectively, it would be a nationalisation of BTL properties that appear for sale, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

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  • What is disturbing about all of this has the Labour Party copied another BNP policy this time Housing? Go back to April there was something on letting private sector housing and using loans to do them up. Lettings period was over 15 yrs and investment for repairs can out of the rental cheques. HAs were the management agents. What is going on are we been taken for mugs?? By those void of policy???

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  • Why don't the Labour party / Fabian Socierty ever want to talk about bad tenant who wreck landlord properties?. The current LHA system, where housing tenants don't pay rent. Or tenants who cause damage to get council housing. Or the tenant who wreck homes and run off without consequences?

    A landlord can have a property which meets the Decent Housing Standard for it to be wrecked by a tenant and fail to meet any standard. It costs private landlords thousands and pushes up rents. In turn, it costs the economy is lost taxes.

    Does Kitty Ussher know what she is talking about? The Private Rental Sector have already something similar to the Decent Housing Standard. If Kitty Ussher knew what she was talking about. She would know the last Labour government introduced the HHSRS (Housing Act 2004).

    Not all properties can meet Descent Housing Standard, as listed buildings cannot be Double Glazed, in some places people want to retain original features like sash windows. Many new build properties don't have gas central heating (so does not meet Descent Housing Standard), however, they are fitted with modern electric heating and which is fine for flats in blocks.).

    Now the Labour party want to crush private landlords. The Labour party have declared war on Landlords, they never talk to Landlords and get our side.

    Labour seem to forget that many Landlords, are ordinary citizens with ordinary jobs. They happen to be landlords on the side. All sorts of random people are landlords. The guy who supplies my fridges is a landlord, the guy who repairs my car, the bloke at the kitchen planning service in B&Q, the woman who owns the cafe, the woman at reception at one council office, the guy who does IT support etc...

    If Labour dont want Private Landlords, then fix the problems and confidence with the Stock Market.

    As for 'rent caps'.... the LHA is frozen until 2013, We have rent regulation by the back door.

    Licensing (in HMOs) is pushing up rents..... the single room rate shot up when they introduced licensing. It has been a money making scheme for council, but the price is being paid by tenants.

    If Kitty Ussher was a former treasury minister, why did n't she try to stop house prices going up (exceesive bank lendind which fueled house prices). It is not like Vince Cable was not banging up about it....

    The suggestion that somehow social housing is superior, is a bit of a joke... For years council estates have been blighted with crime, drugs, murders...

    I support Desent Housing Standard, but I question since it is duplication....

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