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At the start of this month, the Government published their ‘Levelling Up’ paper, promising to improve the private rented sector (PRS) and tenants’ rights. Part of this publication was a ‘Decent Homes Standard’ review. What will this mean for landlords, and how can they prepare?

This standard has caused some anxiety for landlords, as there’s little information about what landlords need to know, and comes on top of the upcoming EPC changes. However, the current guidance for social landlords is something that we can look at to determine what these measures could mean if enforced for the private sector.

The guidance focuses on what makes a decent home, defining one as decent if it doesn’t have one or more serious, category one hazards. It must be in a reasonable state, with the ability to repair the home. The property will fail if two or more key components of the building need major repair or replacing. This includes external walls, roof structure and covering, plumbing and electrics and storage heaters.

One major aspect that could affect whether buy to let properties meet this standard is how modern they are. Regulating bodies will be looking to see whether a home has the following:

- A modern kitchen (20 years old, or less), with enough space and a good layout

- A modern bathroom (30 years old, or less), located appropriately in the property

- Enough and appropriate insulation against external noise

- The appropriate size and layout of communal areas in blocks of flats

A home without one or two of these will still be considered decent; however, it will fail to meet the standard without three or more.

One element of this standard that could be liable to change is ensuring there is effective insulation and efficient heating. Upcoming EPC changes could affect this standard due to the tighter restrictions coming into play in the near future. With the minimum EPC rating set to change from E to C by 2025 for all new tenancies, what now meets the decent home standard may be insufficient in the next five years. Currently, however, it stands that social landlords need to “provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort” to their tenants.

An exemption to these standards is if a tenant doesn’t want the changes to occur. If a landlord can prove that the necessary modifications are unwanted by a tenant, they can wait until the next void tenancy period.

Ben Beadle, the Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlord’s Association (NRLA), disagrees that this plan is the way to improve the safety and security of tenants. Currently, this guidance is only directed towards social landlords, not private, but Beadle comments that it doesn’t adequately reflect the differences between the two sectors. The private rented sector must consider the type and age of the property, which this guidance emits. Ben Beadle writes that the NRLA is happy to work with the government to help landlords meet the expected standards and ensure that these standards are fit for purpose and are enforced appropriately.

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