Councils failing to inspect potentially hazardous housing, data shows

councils-failing-to-inspect-potentially-hazardous-housing,-data-shows

The next government needs to focus on driving up enforcement to root out rogue and criminal landlords, according to the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

The organisation says that private renters in England face a postcode lottery as data reveals that councils are failing to properly inspect properties with potential hazards.

Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) local authorities can carry out inspections to identify hazards in rented properties following a complaint by a tenant. They can then compel the landlord to act where hazards are detected.

Freedom of Information data obtained by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has found that between 2021 and 2023, just a third of complaints raised by renters were responded to with an HHSRS inspection.

Half of all inspections conducted under the HHSRS were carried out by just 20 local authorities. 16 per cent of councils were unable to provide any inspection figures.

In a worrying sign of poor recordkeeping, 37% of councils were unable to provide any housing tenure specific data related to tenant complaints.

Where hazards are found following an inspection, councils have a range of enforcement options, including issuing an Improvement Notice to compel a landlord to rectify whatever problems are identified. Landlords are then prohibited from serving a section 21, ‘no-fault’ possession notice for six months.

Despite this, between 2021 and 2023, just seven per cent of HHSRS inspections led to an Improvement Notice being served. Over 50 per cent of such notices were served by just 20 local authorities, while 23 councils had served no notices.

To support improved enforcement against rogue and criminal landlords the NRLA is calling on the next government to urgently publish the promised review of the HHSRS. Councils should also be required to publish annual reports on their enforcement activity in respect of the private rented sector and how it is helping to address poor practice and sub-standard housing.

Alongside this, the NRLA is calling for the creation of a new national chief environmental health officer to drive the need for better enforcement.

Ben Beadle

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “No renters should ever have to put up with unsafe housing. Whilst ultimately it is landlords who are responsible for the quality of the housing they provide, tenants must have confidence in councils’ ability to act when renters require assistance.

“Our research paints a worrying picture of councils under strain struggling to respond as they should to tenant complaints. In addition, many do not have the data needed to track enforcement activity properly.

“Calls for new laws to tackle rogue and criminal landlords are distracting from the fact that councils routinely fail to make the best use of the powers available to them. The focus must be on swift, consistent enforcement. This is in the interest of households and responsible landlords.”

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