Chris Skidmore, the government’s Universities Minister, has fired a shot across the bow of rogue landlords. He warns that landlords who fail to meet minimum standards for student accommodation risk being taken to court by their student tenants under new legislation.
The HFHH Act
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation Act) 2018 has now come into force. This gives tenants the power to seek legal redress when landlords don’t sort out serious problems in rental properties. Poor quality housing is a big problem in some areas and many students are forced to live in sub-standard housing when they rent privately.
Large Numbers of Students Living in Sub-standard Accommodation
Research carried out by the National Union of Students has found that many students report significant problems with their rental housing, including damp, condensation, draughty doors and windows. 40% said their homes were damp and mouldy. 44% had issues with condensation. 20% reported vermin infestations and 16% said the electrics were dangerous.
Around a third of students told the NUS that living in unsafe and unsavoury homes was making them depressed.
Category 1 Hazards in Student Housing
Many of these issues are a Category 1 hazard under the new legislation, so students would have the power to take their landlord to court. If a student approaches their local Environmental Health Department, landlords can be forced to fix the problem. If they fail to carry out the work, they risk being prosecuted and/or fined in the magistrate’s court.
“Students’ time at university should be some of the best days of their lives and yet I have heard appalling stories of students living in terrible conditions, which can affect their studies and even their mental health,” says Chris Skidmore.
“While there are many landlords who do take their responsibilities seriously, for too long rogue private landlords have been exploiting vulnerable students by failing to provide even basic standards of living.
He then issued a stark warning to rogue landlords hoping to take advantage of naïve students living away for the first time.
“Now the time is up for these landlords making a profit from shoddy accommodation. These new regulations make landlords more accountable, helping to improve standards, and students should use their powers to make sure landlords face justice where they’re not fulfilling their responsibilities.”
Code of Conduct for Student Landlords
Universities UK and Unipol have created a code of conduct for landlords in the private rental sector. This is designed to ensure minimum standards are met in rental housing for students. If landlords sign up to this code of conduct, they must have a clear complaints procedure, act in a responsible manner, and make sure they keep their rental homes well maintained.
“For the last year, we have worked tirelessly to ensure all tenants, including students, have access to a fairer private rented market across the country,” says Heather Wheeler, the Minister for Housing.
“From cracking down on unnecessary costs through our Tenant Fees Act, extending HMO regulations to offer protections to more tenants than ever before and giving councils the funding they need to tackle rogue landlords, we are determined to make renting of the standard it should be,” she added.
“Now, these changes are set to have a real impact. Students must use these powers to crack down on poor quality accommodation and opportunistic landlords profiting from tenants’ misery.”
Are you a student landlord? Would you be willing to sign up to a Code of Conduct? Let us know your thoughts.
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