In one of the first major policy announcements of the new year, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has unveiled measures to help English councils tackle criminal landlords and letting agents.
Over 100 councils are to be awarded a share of over £4 million, with some councils expected to use the funding to train more enforcement officers, or test new technology to ensure that it’s possible to identify homes in need of better heating during the winter period.
Under previous governments, landlords often lacked incentives to make improvements to properties, which prompted Peers in the House of Lords to suggest rolling out tax incentives for landlords in coastal regions.
Drive to improve standards in the PRS
The government’s funding for local councils is all part of a new drive to improve standards within the private rented sector (PRS), by ensuring that councils are emboldened in their efforts to rid local authorities of a small minority of unscrupulous landlords and letting agents.
Housing Minister Robert Jenrick explained: “This government will deliver a better deal for renters. It’s completely unacceptable that a minority of unscrupulous landlords continue to break the law and provide homes which fall short of the standards we rightly expect – making lives difficult for hard-working tenants, who just want to get on with their lives.”
In Thurrock, the government’s extra funding is expected to be targeted at helping local care services identify some of the younger and more vulnerable tenants in the local area, making sure they are able to live in more well-maintained properties.
Coastal areas such as Thurrock are central to the government’s improved PRS standards drive, as housing stock is often in worse condition in such places, than in more affluent parts of the country. Properties in these areas are often former holiday homes, converted into full-time housing, which are less sustainable for long-term use.
Most renters happy with housing in PRS
The government’s more proactive approach is all part of its broader housing policy agenda of delivering on what is dubbed a fairer deal for renters in the PRS. The government estimates that 4.5 million households live in the PRS in England.
They added that 82 per cent of private renters are satisfied with accommodation.
In order to improve the standards renters can come to expect in the future, the government is seeking to encourage greater data-sharing between authorities and agencies, to ensure that they can identify parts of England where the most vulnerable tenants live.
Northampton is tasked with having its very own Special Operations Unit created, in order to crack down on some of the worst landlords in the country, who are estimated to be responsible for the provision of up to 100 homes in the local area.
As the UK’s population continues to grow and other government policies such as the scrappage of Section 21 have the potential to tighten the supply of rental homes, moves to raise standards in the PRS matter now more than ever before.