Private landlords will be prevented from receiving housing benefit for tenants when renting out low-quality homes under new rules announced as part of the Renters Reform Bill, housing secretary Michael Gove has announced today.
The reforms aim to slash the £3 billion a year in housing benefit estimated to go to landlords renting out sub-standard homes and should save the NHS up to the £340 million a year it spends on treating health problems these properties create, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The National Audit Office’s recent report estimated that £9.1 billion in housing support was paid to private renters or directly to private landlords in 2020-21 and revealed that 29% of renters receiving welfare live in a non-decent home.
This ‘New Deal’ for renters aims to improve the lives of millions by driving up standards in the private and socially rented sector, extending the Decent Homes Standard and giving all renters the legal right to a safe and warm home.
The government adds that the standard will place a legal obligation on the small number of landlords renting out homes that are of such low quality they are endangering the health of their tenants to quickly improve them.
Currently, areas in the North have the highest proportion of non-decent private rented homes.
Many landlords have welcomed the news, hoping that it focuses councils’ attention away from the widely disliked licensing schemes to where it matters most.
Martin Silman (pictured), chairman of Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association, says his group has tried for years to get councils to focus on the bottom 10% of properties rented by tenants who can’t afford anything else.
“Although councils have been open to the suggestion, they don’t have the resources to cope with extra inspections and the resulting pressure it would cause on their emergency housing budgets which are already at breaking capacity,” he tells LandlordZONE.
“The announcement is brilliant news if it gives them the ability to step up and take the focus off the rest of us – then perhaps landlords won’t have such a bad name.”
However, there are fears that this will only happen if there is more co-operation between central and local government, along with proper direction of funds. Responding to the government’s announcement, James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, says: “Turning levelling up from a political slogan to a reality will only be achieved if councils have the powers and funding they need to address regional inequality, tackle concentrations of deprivation and make towns and communities across England attractive places to live, work and visit.”
Gove says: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction. The New Deal for renters announced today will help to end this injustice, improving conditions and rights for millions of renters.”
The government has promised to publish a White Paper setting out more detail on the proposals for landmark reform in the private rented sector and promises to continue to work with the sector to develop the Renters Reform Bill.