A London council has launched a strategy it claims will protect private tenants and ensure they live in good quality and well managed properties.
Westminster has the largest number of private rented sector properties in England with around 52,700: this is 43 per cent of all of Westminster’s housing stock.
Recent analysis by the council found that 13 per cent of PRS properties in Westminster (almost 6,800 homes) have at least one serious hazard such as faulty electrical wiring, severe damp or mould, excessive cold or fire safety breaches.
The analysis showed nearly half of HMO's are likely to have serious hazards.
In addition, the council says it already receives about 1,600 complaints a year about poor housing conditions in the private sector and the impact of poor-quality housing on residents’ safety, health and wellbeing is significant.
So its new strategy is to:
- Improve conditions in the PRS including consulting on a discretionary licencing scheme for all HMOs;
- The council also aims to review its Enforcement Policy and work with the sector to increase the number of landlords and letting agents signing up to something called the London Landlords Accreditation Scheme;
- Provide support for tenants, landlords and letting agents by ensuring that all parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities, assisting tenants taking legal action against rogue landlords, setting up a dedicated forum for anyone letting a property privately and investigating energy efficiency grants for landlords housing vulnerable people;
- Set up a private rented sector forum that brings together all landlords and letting agents so knowledge and best practice can be shared;
- To lobby government for a national register of landlords and letting agencies, as well pushing for the existing Rogue Landlord Database to be extended, and for tenants’ rights to be simply explained as part of their licence or agreement.
A council spokeswoman says: “The safety and protection of our communities will always be our primary concern. Most privately rented properties are high quality with landlords that play by the rules, but we know that a minority let properties that do not meet the required safety standards, and put residents’ lives, health and wellbeing at risk.
“We want tenants, landlords and letting agents to be aware of their rights and responsibilities so we can raise standards in the sector as high as possible. Our new policy sets measures designed to ensure Westminster’s private rented sector is well managed, operating within the law and above all else, safe for the people living here.”