NHC Private Rented Sector Network Reconvenes for 2022

The Northern Housing Consortium’s Private Rented Sector Network met for the first time in 2022 this month, with plenty to discuss since the recent Queen’s Speech. The Network was established to offer NHC members working in or connected to private sector housing the space to network and share good practice from across the northern regions and is Chaired by Dr Julie Rugg who informs discussion based on her expertise researching the Private Rented Sector.

This first session was used to digest announcements made in the Queen’s Speech and arrange a work programme to ensure the northern voice is heard. Announced earlier in the month, the introduction of the Renter’s Reform Bill is intended to fulfil the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions; and to strengthen other grounds for possession, such as for rent arrears and anti-social behaviour. The Bill will also legislate for the extension of the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector (a Levelling Up White Paper commitment), introduce a new ‘property portal’ to give tenants performance information to hold their landlord to account and create an Ombudsman for private landlords.

Acknowledging the Network’s large, pan-northern membership, NHC members were joined by colleagues from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Private Rented Sector Division. Discussing their work in Standards and Enforcement, David Selby and Lisa Whiting, shared their desire to hear the views of NHC members on the expansion of the Decent Homes Standard into the PRS. In particular, as the standard is developed, the Department would be looking closely at what success would look like for colleagues in the implementation of the Standard, and how any issues in relation to costs could be navigated.

In a wide-ranging discussion, NHC members discussed with the Department the need to avoid the duplication and ‘layering on’ of regulation, and the need to ensure that the Decent Homes Standard in the PRS compliments developments in the review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards. NHC members saw an opportunity to create a ‘streamlined’ standard that Landlords could easily understand and importantly avoid any discrepancies that hinder Local Authorities in their work.

Equally, colleagues discussed the need to ensure that any work to enforce the new Standard be properly resourced. With sufficient capacity, it was felt that members could undertake proactive work providing support and education to professional landlords whilst effectively tackling the activities of criminal landlords.

Attendees also warned against the creation of ‘two-tier’ regulation where landlords in low-value housing markets could cite viability in alluding their responsibility to invest in their properties. Overall, it was felt that the wider Levelling Up agenda provided an opportunity to think holistically about how NHC members support homes of all tenures in their communities; looking at housing quality alongside decarbonisation and wider place-making to create better homes and places.

Recording and notes from the NHC’s Private Rented Sector Network are available to all NHC members signed up to the PRS Network Mailing List. To join the mailing list, please email Kristina.dawson@nhc.org.uk.