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Improving compliance with private rented sector legislation

Compared to other tenures, private rented homes are more likely to have problems with damp or disrepair and to pose a high threat to health. In response to these challenges, regulation of the UK private rented sector has been significantly restructured and strengthened in recent years. Local authorities are the key regulatory agency, but they face key challenges in applying the legislation in practice. This report presents the findings from an in-depth qualitative research study carried out with 13 local authority areas and key stakeholders from across the UK. It explores how approaches to enforcement are adopted on a local level and provides suggestions for how regulation in the sector could be improved.

Key findings include:

  • Current thinking on enforcement in the UK private rented sector fails to account for the wide range of activities that are important in achieving compliance. Our ability to improve compliance and therefore standards would be enhanced by adopting a more nuanced understanding of how to encourage landlords to comply with the law.
  • There are at least four types of regulatory approaches currently operating in the sector: light-touch, hard-line, compliance-focused, and creative approaches. There are several challenges and limitations associated with both light-touch and hard-line approaches: blended approaches using complementary tools can be effective.
  • Our research identifies the broader regulatory techniques that UK local authorities should take into consideration when designing their approach to regulating the sector, including clear aims and purpose, holistic thinking and multi-agency working, a tenant-focused approach, internal design and how outcomes are defined and measured.
  • An exclusive focus on formal enforcement overlooks some of the most important aspects of the work of local authorities. The research adds new insight into the principles and approaches that support the effective use of more informal compliance-focused activities.
  • UK and devolved governments have a key role to play in improving enforcement by ensuring local authorities are properly resourced, improving the data which is available on the PRS and considering codification of existing legislation.

The report has been published alongside the following briefing papers:

Authors: Dr Jennifer Harris, Prof Alex Marsh and Prof David Cowan


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Date: August 5, 2020 9:00 am

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