Environmental health officers want more robust landlord licensing schemes under the Renters Reform Bill, says the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
The group believes the new property portal shouldn’t replace landlord licensing and that councils should be able to use licence conditions to improve housing conditions, with schemes extended to a maximum of ten years.
As part of its evidence on the bill to the House of Commons committee, it suggests that local authorities shouldn’t need to get general approval for schemes covering more than 20% of the local authority area.
It also believes the government should scrap the need for environmental health officers to give 24 hours’ notice to landlords and tenants when inspecting property conditions, as it says this gives landlords time to attend the inspection which can be intimidating for tenants.
The CIEH is concerned about the large enforcement burden under the bill and suggests councils should receive ring-fenced funding based on the number of PRS homes registered in their areas. It adds: “We would also suggest that, in order to increase transparency, the bill should be amended to require separate fees to be paid for the administration of the ombudsman and database schemes.”
The bill currently doesn’t allow for the tribunal service to increase a penalty under review, which the CIEH believes sets a perverse incentive for landlords to lodge an appeal - not in order to clarify whether the law has been adhered to, but more as ‘good business’. It says the service should be able to revise the penalty up as well as down to help prevent vexatious appeals.
Louise Hosking (main picture), CIEH executive director of environmental health, adds: “Following our oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee last month, we are determined to continue making the voice of environmental health professionals heard on this crucial piece of legislation.”