Oxford City Council has called on the government to create a level playing field for all tenants by extending the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector.
The Decent Homes Standard is a national minimum quality standard for council and housing association rented homes. All of Oxford’s 7,800 council homes meet the standard, meaning that they:
- contain no serious hazards under the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS)
- are in a reasonable state of repair
- have reasonably modern facilities and services
- provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
The call comes in response to a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) consultation which closes today. While the council is investing more that £40.7m in the next five years to help ensure every council tenant has a decent home, national and local housing condition surveys suggest that many private rented homes fall short of standards in social housing.
According to the English Housing Survey 2020-21, nationally 21% of private rented homes failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard – compared to 16% of owner occupied homes and 13% of council and housing association homes.
In Oxford an independent review of housing conditions by Metastreet in 2020 found that a fifth (6,200) of the 30,500 homes in the city’s private rented sector could have a serious HHSRS hazard.
While the council’s licensing schemes already set standards to improve conditions in private rented homes in Oxford, it believes that extending the Decent Homes Standard would give it stronger powers to realise one of its top priorities – great homes for all.
Driving up standards in Oxford’s private rented sector
Under the Housing Act 2004 licensing is mandatory for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) occupied by five or more people. Councils can extend ‘additional licensing’ to other shared housing where a significant proportion are poorly managed and give rise to problems for residents or the general public.
Licensing requires private landlords to show that they are complying with the law by meeting safety and management standards, being a ‘fit and proper person’ and meeting council waste storage and disposal requirements.
In 2011 Oxford was the first council in England to introduce a citywide additional licensing scheme that required every HMO to be licensed.
The launch of a new citywide ‘selective licensing’ scheme on 1 September means that all private rented homes in Oxford now need a licence – not just shared houses and flats.
Citywide selective licensing follows government approval of the scheme in April. It means Oxford is the only council area in England requiring a licence for all private rented homes.
Landlords and agents who make a complete licence application by 30 November will qualify for an early bird discounted rate of £400.
“While we’re investing £40.7m to improve council homes in the next five years the evidence suggests that the private rented sector is falling behind.
“Our new selective licensing scheme means that all private rented homes in Oxford now need a licence, and this will play an important part in driving up standards for private tenants.
“Extending the Decent Homes Standard to private rented homes would create a level playing field for all tenants and improve our ability to ensure that everyone has a decent home.”
Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing