Will a rental property ‘MOT’ improve standards?

Rental property checklist to improve rental standardsSpecialist UK inventory services provider, No Letting Go, is backing the introduction of MOT-style reports on rental properties to safeguard people who wish to rent from a private landlord. They say that it is the next logical and vital step in raising standards across the board.

The licencing or certification of private rented property was recommended in ‘The Evolving Private Rented Sector: Its Contribution and Potential’, a review of the Private Rental Sector (PRS) by Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes which was funded by the Nationwide Foundation and published in September 2018. The licence would indicate whether a property is fit and/or habitable for tenants and test whether the home meets all statutory requirements.

Industry trade body, Propertymark, has been supportive of MOT reports saying that the sector’s health and safety regulations would be less ‘complicated’ and more ‘practical’.

The government has confirmed that the PRS health and safety regulations will be reviewed this year. In spring,  a new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill will come into force which will tie in with the government’s proposals. This law will require all privately rented homes to be fit for habitation before being let. It is hoped this will result in fewer issues with tenants having to cope with damp, mould, unsafe living conditions and lack of facilities in their homes. The new legislation will empower tenants, enabling them to take landlords to court if the property they are responsible for is not fit for purpose and they fail to improve living conditions.

The CEO and Founder of No Letting Go, Nick Lyons, is all for the proposed changes. He said: “Property MOT reports are a fantastic idea. As we can see from the work the government is doing around the PRS, this innovation would fit squarely with their aims and mark another step towards raising the standard of privately rented properties. A uniform and easy to understand system would provide clarity for landlords and tenants, helping to eradicate poorly maintained homes with health and safety issues from the PRS.”

He agrees that the inventory reports would complement property MOTs perfectly, creating a partnership that would result in safe private rental housing for all.

Mr Lyons said: “An MOT report ensuring a property meets a minimum standard alongside an independently and professionally compiled inventory would ensure that everything about a property’s condition and contents is suitably documented at the start of a tenancy. This would protect all sides of the rental transaction and reduce the chances of either landlords or tenants being unfairly left out of pocket at the end of a contract. Landlords should no longer be able to get away with letting shabby properties to tenants with no other choice.”

People across the UK now tend to stay in rental accommodation for longer, due to the costs of setting up a new tenancy or the time it takes to save for the deposit on a home purchase. The expectations of privately rented homes are rising and people expect a certain level of maintenance, especially if it is somewhere they intend to live for a prolonged period.

Landlords could face legal action if the tenant is put at risk or injured. Some of the standards that might be checked if the MOT is enforced could be electrical and gas safety certificates. The general condition of the property would be inspected much in the way a car is during an MOT test.

So what might happen if a home is deemed unsafe?

If a property is deemed unsafe, the landlord will have to address the issue ‘as soon as they can’, with the timescale dependent on the severity of the problem. Problems that are a significant danger or risk to health must be fixed within 24 hours. Issues involving gas leaks or any other toxic substance must be addressed urgently. If there is a problem that affects the comfort or convenience of a tenant, the landlord would have up to three working days to fix the problem. In the case of a non-urgent repair, a landlord would have around 28 days. This would mean that tenants would no longer have to wait months on end for small repairs.

Citizens Advice says that, over the last four years, rental households with a combined value of around £1.85 million across the UK have required a repair that was the responsibility of the landlord but was not resolved within a reasonable timescale.

Not only would a property MOT give people confidence before signing a tenancy agreement, but also offer greater clarity and protection for landlords against prosecution. This could be a win-win situation for all involved.

Independent Chartered Surveyors provide professional residential house purchase and building surveys, as well as professional commercial and residential property advice throughout England and Wales.

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