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Levelling-up plans target rogue landlords in the private sector

Private landlords will be forced by law to bring their properties up to a set of national standards for the first time under plans to be unveiled in the government’s levelling-up strategy.

Michael Gove, the housing secretary, will announce legislation that will require landlords to refit about 800,000 properties that don’t meet requirements to be “safe, warm and in a good state of repair”. The law will also introduce a register that anyone renting a house must join, with rogue landlords being ejected from the list. All tenants in the private rental sector would also gain a new right to redress for complaints about their homes.

The moves, long demanded by campaigners, will bring the private rental sector into line with the obligations to rent out “decent” properties required of councils and housing associations. These are being reviewed by Gove with the intention that they be toughened and applied to the whole rented sector.

This could include new measures on energy efficiency, as well as a minimum standard of fixtures and fittings for furnished accommodation. Ministers hope to halve the number of poor-quality rented homes by 2030.

Gove is to unveil his wider levelling-up strategy on Wednesday. It will include proposals to give greater powers over spending and investment to local mayors. About twenty areas will also see a cash injection to spend on housing, business and leisure facilities, as well as roads and railways. The money will come from funds already allocated in the spending review.

He is expected to identify 13 missions vital to the levelling-up agenda, the flagship policy of Boris Johnson’s premiership. Some, such as improving town centres and housing stock, are seen as immediate “wins” by the government but the focus will also be on addressing longer-term imbalances.

The levelling-up secretary will say that improving the productivity gap between London and the rest of the country will be critical to any success.

Gove believes that poor housing is one of the driving factors behind inequality that can affect both educational attainment and long-term health outcomes. But while social housing landlords are required by law to keep their properties in a decent state of repair and periodically update them, there are no rules for the private sector.

Official figures suggest that 4.4 million families rent their home from a private landlord, representing 19 per cent of all households in England. But the English Housing Survey in 2019 estimated that 23 per cent of those did not meet the “decent home standards”; about 1.1 million homes.

Sources in the levelling-up department said 34 per cent of privately rented homes are classed as “non-decent” in Yorkshire and the Humber, compared with 17 per cent in the South East.

Gove said it would be the government’s “mission to regenerate” and that must include a “radical re-think of what we expect from home providers”.

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