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Quality of homes to let must improve, says PropTech chief

Sub-standard homes remain a key weakness in the private rental sector, which needs to get its house in order in the light of increased government intervention.

That’s the message from the chief operating officer of automated payment platform PayProp UK, Neil Cobbold.

He says the government's review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, or HHSRS, is happening at just the right time for the fast-growing lettings sector.


The HHSRS was introduced in 2006 as a provision of the Housing Act 2004. 

It provides local authorities with the means to check health and safety in residential properties: councils can use the HHSRS to recover costs from landlords for repair works or order them to carry out improvements.

Typical hazards that can be flagged through the HHSRS include damp, overcrowding and fire risks, with issues ranked in importance and starting with a 'category 1' hazard as the most dangerous.

Back in October, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced a review of the HHSRS - a move welcomed by Cobbold in the light of the findings of the most recent English Housing Survey, published in January.

This shows that the private rental sector accounts for the highest proportion of ‘non-decent’ homes at 25 per cent. For a home to be considered 'decent', it must meet HHSRS minimum standards with, amongst other things, no category 1 hazards. 

The latest English Housing Survey, for 2017, shows 14 per cent of privately rented homes had a category 1 hazard, down from 31 per cent in 2008.

"With the private rental sector accounting for the highest proportion of non-decent homes, the review of the HHSRS will be important in determining if criteria need to be tightened in order to reduce the number of sub-standard rental homes" says Cobbold.

"It's pleasing to see that the number of rental homes with serious hazards is declining, but that is another reason why the HHSRS needs updating.

"As newer homes enter the sector and energy efficiency continues to improve, there could be entirely different health and safety issues which now merit closer attention," he says.

Cobbold believes that an updated HHSRS is essential now that the private rental sector is bigger and renters are more diverse. 

"As well as changing demographics, which have an impact on property standards, the sector has become much larger since 2006, now accounting for around a fifth of all households. This means more tenants need protection from rogue landlords with increased opportunities to let sub-standard homes” Cobbold adds.

"Moreover, the introduction this year of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 - which will give tenants the opportunity to take legal action against landlords letting hazardous homes - means that a HHSRS which reflects the current market is vital."

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    I have been out to a couple of flat owners annual block management meetings.

    What is very clear is, "Sub-standard tenants remain a key weakness in the private rental sector". These clever commentators really need to learn that most property problems are multifaceted and very often the landlords only "crime" is owning the property.

    When you have a block of identical flats it is very easy to compare the individual owners, sub letting agents, residents and block management problems. If you own several similar properties in different developments then the situation becomes even clearer. Yes, there are problems with agents as well. Most units in blocks are let out via a agent/manager so the landlord is directly responsible for very little but tenants are still having (a euphemism for making) problems.

    I have just been discussing a tenant there who lets their children float rubbish paper out of a third floor window.
    The management agent continually has problems with tenants and residents who leave cycles and prams by the front door which is the emergency exit as well. None of that is any fault of a landlord.

    Another landlord has been having problems with damp in a flat. He has lived in it without problem. Now he has a tenant there who steam cooks everything,dries their washing inside and keeps all the windows closed. Everything in the flat is rotting and mildew covered. He has had to fit a forced air ventilation system at his own cost so that this tenants can stay in the flat. Apparently this works well but this is not something any UK architect would ever specify for a UK build.

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    Jeez! Someone else who thinks there is just one letting market and all issues are down to landlords. In general poor quality property goes hand in hand with poor quality landlords who bypass professional letting agents. So there is a 2 tier rental sector. In general rogue tenants and rogue landlords deserve each other. Both try to avoid fees and neither look after the property. Reports of LLs getting convictions have one thing in common. They didn't use an agent. These are the people the government needs to target.
    The previous ppint is a good one. The owner lives in a property fo 10+ years with no mould issues. Tenant moves in and within a year has mould issues. They refuse to open windows when showering, cooking or bathing. Allow no ventilation into bedrooms. When you do inspections they miraculously have all the windows open yet whenever you drive by you never see windows open. Many tenants take no responsibility for looking after the property and think we have a magic wand to put things right. Well we can't control their behaviour.
    Always the LL never the tenant.

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