In June 2022 the Government released its long-awaited white paper as part of the Renters Reform Bill. This latest white paper titled ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ has at its heart the Decent Homes Standard which sets out to address living standard issues within the Private Rented Sector. As a central piece of legislation for rental properties, it is in is the best interest of private landlords to have an understanding of the Decent Homes Standard. To see how it will impact your properties, your tenants and yourself, keep reading as we dive into the details.
The history of the Decent Homes Standard
The Decent Homes Standard, although it may have only recently appeared on the radar for many, has been around since the early 2000’s. It originally formed the foundation for the Decent Homes Programme, the goal of which was to set a minimum standard of living conditions for those who occupy council housing or housing association properties.
The standard required local authorities to assess, modify and in extreme circumstances replace their housing stock to meet the criteria that were set out in the standard. The standard was updated in 2006 and included the implementation of the Housing Health and Safety rating System (HHSRS). While the standard was previously designated to council housing, registered social landlords and housing associations, the Government is now proposing to roll it out to the Private Rented Sector as a whole.
What is a Decent Home?
This is the obvious question when considering the Decent Homes Standard and the answer is divided into four distinct sections. To be considered decent a property must meet the following criteria.
1) It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
While it may appear vague this relates to the HHSRS and states that a property must not have one or more Category 1 hazards under the HHSRS guidelines. Under the HHSRS rating system there are 29 housing hazards that may effect the health and safety of the occupants of that property, both currently or in the future. These hazards include damp, mould growth, excessive temperatures, electrics, trip hazards and toxins such as biocides, lead, radiation and volatile organic compounds. A Category 1 hazard is one that poses immediate risk to a person’s health and safety. You can view the current HHSRS standards by following this link.
2) It is in a reasonable state of repair
To be considered not in a reasonable state of repair a dwelling must have one or more key building components or other building components that are old, and because of their condition, require major repair or replacement.
3) It has reasonably modern facilities and services
While the term ‘reasonably modern facilities’ may seem rather vague, the Decent Homes Standard defines the term as such:
- A reasonably modern kitchen (20 years old or less)
- A kitchen with adequate space and layout
- A reasonably modern bathroom (30 years old or less)
- An appropriately located bathroom and WC
- Adequate insulation against external noise (where noise is a problem)
- Adequate size and layout of common areas for blocks of flats
For a property to fail in this respect in must lack three or more of the above criteria.
4) It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
To meet the final criteria, a dwelling is required to have both effective insulation and effective heating.
You can read the complete document that explains the Decent Home requirements by following this link: A Decent Home: Definition and guidance for implementation.
Implementation of the Decent Homes Standard
As mentioned, the Decent Homes Standard has historically applied to council housing, registered social landlords and housing providers. If you want to learn more about registered social landlords, we have a great article that you may enjoy reading: The Rise Of The Registered Social Landlord. The Government, as part of the Rental Reform Bill, is proposing to introduce a legally binding Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rented Sector.
By also providing local councils with more powers to enforce the standards, the aim is to place a legislative duty on private landlords to raise the standard of living for private tenants and address issues before enforcement action is necessary. The Government has also announced that it is reviewing the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) with the view to make it easier for both landlords and tenants to understand the required standards and streamline the process for local councils.
What this all means for private landlords is that change is coming and it will be advisable to stay ahead of all new legislation. Our way of helping is always to say ‘stay close to the fire’ by being involved with professional property investor communities and educational resources, like we have at Asset Academy.