The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee says the most vulnerable tenants need greater legal protections from retaliatory evictions, rent increases and harassment so they are fully empowered to pursue complaints about repairs and maintenance in their homes.
The Committee is calling on the Government to address a ‘clear power imbalance’ in parts of the sector, with tenants often unwilling to complain to landlords about conditions in their homes such as excess cold, mould or faulty wiring.
While the Committee acknowledges the legislation introduced in recent years to strengthen protections for tenants – including civil penalties of up to £30,000 and banning orders for criminal landlords – the Committee heard that local authorities have insufficient resources to undertake their enforcement duties.
The report recommends:
- Tenants need greater legal protections from retaliatory eviction, rent increases and harassment. For example, the Deregulation Act could be strengthened to give greater protections to tenants after they make a complaint about conditions in their homes.
- The establishment of a new fund to support local authorities to undertake informal enforcement activities.
- The introduction of new ways of informing tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities.
- A specialist housing court to deal with housing matters.
- A requirement for local authorities to publish their enforcement strategies online.
- A review of legislation relating to the private rented sector aimed at bringing more clarity for tenants, landlords and local authorities.
The Committee concluded that enforcement of existing legislation to protect tenants had been far too low with six out of 10 councils not prosecuting a landlord in 2016.
The Committee is calling on the Law Commission to undertake a review of Private Rented Sector legislation and has also proposed that the Housing Health and Safety Rating System ( HHSRS ) should be replaced with a more straightforward set of quality standards. The current legislative framework is outdated and too complex.
The Committee heard that local authorities have insufficient resources to undertake their enforcement duties.
Some of the recent legislation concerned with raising the standards of housing has not been in force for long enough to know how effective it has been.
The government has published a response to the report, but this focuses more on the Tenant Fees Bill and how this will improve the sector for tenants rather than addressing the Committee’s recommendations.