Recent Updates from the National Code June 2022 1/6: The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Act 2020 (Suspension: Termination of Student Residential Tenancy) Regulations 2022 Now Signed The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Act 2020 (Suspension: Termination of Student Residential Tenancy) Regulations 2022 is now signed. This means that the suspension of twenty-eight day notice period for students in university and college halls of residence and Purpose Built Student Accommodation comes into force on 1 July 2022. The legislation can be accessed here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2022/192/contents/made May 2022 27/5: Cabinet Office Publishes New Guidance on Developing Ombudsman Schemes The Cabinet Office has published new guidance for government departments on setting up Ombudsman schemes. It can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-ombudsman-schemes-guidance 26/5: Government Publishes Fact Sheet on Fire Doors (Regulation 10) The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will make it a legal requirement from 23 January 2023 for responsible persons for all multi-occupied residential buildings in England with storeys over 11 metres in height to: Undertake quarterly checks of all fire doors (including self-closing devices) in the common parts; and, Undertake – on a best endeavour basis – annual checks of all flat entrance doors (including self-closing devices) that lead onto a building’s common parts. The regulations will also require responsible persons to provide to residents of all multi-occupied residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises (that have common parts) information on the importance of fire doors to a building’s fire safety. The fact sheet can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-safety-england-regulations-2022/fact-sheet-fire-doors-regulation-10 26/5: Government Publishes English Private Landlord Survey The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published the latest English Private Landlord Survey for 2021. It can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-private-landlord-survey-2021-main-report. 26/5: Warning for PBSA Providers on Fraud Scheme Targeting International Students The National Code has recieved communications from a member regarding an issue that is currently found to be affecting students across the Sheffield market that relates to a payment fraud scam. The scammers are posing as a PBSA company that is promoting a rent payment service where students that use the service will receive a discount on their rent. The student is then asked to transfer them the rental payment, minus the discount, to the third party, who in turn pays the full amount of rent on behalf of the student, by credit card. A receipt is then provided to the student. Some weeks later the third party is claiming a chargeback on the credit card payment, which is then reversed by the credit card provider. This payment then returns to being unpaid on the student’s account. The scam is being conducted via the platform WeChat which is making it incredibly difficult to follow and track. Sadly some students have already been targeted, and the provider is helping these students to work with the police and Action Fraud on this. It is presumed other PBSA providers and Universities may be being targeted, and both are urged to be vigilant and provide guidance to students on being alert to fraud, and a reminder that they should never transfer rent money through a third party or ask anyone to pay on their behalf unless they are close family members, or someone who is known well to them and trusted to act on their behalf. 19/5: Government Publishes New Fire Safety Regulations The Government has published the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 547) which are due to come into force from 23rd January 2023. The Instrument seeks to improve fire safety in high-rise residential buildings and other multi-occupied residential buildings by implementing recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in its Phase 1 report in a practical and proportionate way. The Instrument imposes new duties on Responsible Persons (RPs) of high-rise and other multi-occupied residential buildings to improve the safety of residents, whilst providing useful information to the fire and rescue service (FRS), which is the operational part of each fire and rescue authority (FRA), to support an emergency response. The Instrument in full can be accessed at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/547/contents/made. The explanatory note to accompany it is available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/547/pdfs/uksiem_20220547_en.pdf. 10/5: Government Confirms Plans to Bring Forward Renters’ Reform Bill The Queen’s Speech, which marks the opening of the new parliamentary session and sets out the Government’s legislative agenda, includes a commitment to bring forward the much-anticipated Renters’ Reform Bill. The Government’s full background notes to accompany the Queen’s Speech have been published at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1074106/Lobby_Pack_9_May_2022.pdf. It notes that the main elements of the Renters’ Reform Bill will be: Abolishing so-called ‘no fault’ evictions by removing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, providing, the Government says, “security for tenants in the private rented sector and empowering them to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of retaliatory eviction.” Reforming possession grounds for landlords, introducing “new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour, ensuring that they can regain their property efficiently when needed.” Applying the legally binding Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector for the first time ever, “giving tenants safer, better quality and better value homes.” Introduce a new Ombudsman for private landlords “so that disputes can easily be resolved without the need to go to court, which is often costly and lengthy, and ensure that when residents make a complaint, landlords take action to put things right.” Introducing a new property portal “to help landlords understand their obligations, give tenants performance information to hold their landlord to account as well as aiding local authorities.” The Government notes that: “We will shortly publish a White Paper which will set out more detail on our proposals for landmark reform in the private rented sector.” 9/5: 62% of Renters Feel Renting Property Negatively Impacts Their Mental Health 62% of tenants feel that renting a property negatively impacts their mental health, saying they feel either stressed or anxious because of their living situation. According to the findings, the top issue facing renters that contributes to stress and anxiety is repairs to a property not being carried out, with 33% citing this as a reason for their worries. It notes that just a quarter of renters say requested repairs have been carried out to their satisfaction, while 9% say repairs haven’t been made at all. Other worries raised by renters include concerns over their landlord increasing rent during the tenancy (27%) and feeling worried about receiving notice to end a tenancy or facing eviction (19%). However, Admiral’s research also finds that 45% of landlords surveyed have had rent payment issues, while 18% have experienced aggression from tenants. Further information can be accessed at: https://www.admiral.com/press-office/tenants-feel-the-strain. April 2022 26/4: Savills Q1 Market Report Shows PBSA Sector Growth Continues Headlines from the report include: UK purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) has continued to show that it is counter-cyclical, with growth in student numbers during a time of economic uncertainty. Domestic student demand is at an all-time high, but the supply of stock in the private rented sector (PRS), for example HMOs, is constrained and contracting. There is an opportunity for PBSA owners to meet that excess demand by providing a product at a price point that is attractive to domestic students. The latest UCAS application data shows continued growth in the number of domestic students and high-value international students. There is also huge positive sentiment amongst investors, with a significant weight of dry powder targeting the sector, and demand for student portfolios actually outweighing the supply of stock. The full article and report can be accessed on the Savills website. March 2022 29/3: Response to Question on Development of National Register of Landlords The former Communities and Local Government Minister, Lord Bourne (Conservative) has received a response to his written question asking what assessment has been made of the need for a register of landlords and tenants alongside a separate register for a redress scheme for landlords and tenants. The LUHC Minister in the Lords, Lord Greenhalgh, responded: “The Government has committed to exploring the merits of introducing a national landlord register in England as part of a commitment to drive up standards in privately rented accommodation. “We are engaging with a range of stakeholders and potential users of a register such as private landlords, local authority enforcement officers, letting agents and private tenants to inform this work. “We are committed to giving the private rented sector access to redress. Currently half of all landlords do not use an agent to manage their property and therefore their tenants do not have access to redress where they have a legitimate complaint about their home. This means private tenants who rent directly from a landlord have little course for redress other than through the courts, unlike private tenants who rent through an agent and all social housing tenants who have access to redress schemes. Going to court can be expensive and time-consuming for tenants and landlords and takes up valuable court time and resources. This approach will avoid any confusion for private landlords and will make it easier for them to understand their obligations. “We will publish a White Paper in Spring this year that will set out our proposals for reform of the private rented sector.” 23/3: Office for Students Publishes Strategy for 2022-2025 The Office for Students has published its strategy for 2022-2025. It can be accessed here. 23/3: Private Sector Rents Increase by 2.3% the UK in Year to February 2022 The Office for National Statistics has published the latest Index of Private Housing Rental Prices for the UK for February 2022. Of note, in the year to February 2022: Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 2.3%, up from 2.1% in the 12 months to December 2021. Private rental prices grew by 2.1% in England, 1.4% in Wales and 2.6% in Scotland. The East Midlands saw the highest annual growth in private rental prices (3.8%), while London saw the lowest (0.2%). In contrast, inflation in the year to February 2022 was: 5% as measured by CPIH. 2% as measured by CPI. 2% as measured by RPI. Year to Feb 2022 Year to Feb 2021 Year to Feb 2020 UK 2.3% 1.4% 1.4% England 2.1% 1.3% 1.4% Wales 1.4% 1.5% 1.2% Scotland 2.6% 1.1% 0.6% North East 2.3% 1.4% 0.7% North West 3.1% 1.9% 1.0% Yorkshire and The Humber 2.9% 1.6% 1.9% 17/3: Latest Building Safety Programme Data Published The Government has published the 52nd monthly data release from its Building Safety Programme. It can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-programme-monthly-data-release-february-2022 16/3: Office for Students Launches Call for Evidence on Experience of International Students in England in Integrating and Receiving Fulfilling Experience Whilst Studying Universities and colleges have been asked to set out the work they are doing to ensure international students in England integrate and receive a fulfilling experience while studying. The research call comes as a new insight brief highlights existing data on international students and stresses importance of gathering further information on their needs and experiences. The insight brief finds that the coronavirus pandemic highlighted issues faced by international students, such as homesickness, mental health and wellbeing issues, as well as uncertainty around visa restrictions. The brief indicates that: Among UK students, the proportion of those reporting a mental health condition has increased from 0.2 per cent in 2010–11 to 1.5 per cent in 2019–20. In the 2021 National Student Survey, international students’ rates of agreement with questions relating to the extent to which they feel part of their learning community fell significantly. EU students’ agreement rates fell from 75 per cent in 2020 to 67 percent in 2021. There was also a drop in agreement rates from non-EU students – from 77 to 70 per cent – while UK students saw a comparable drop. This is significant, as research demonstrates the particular importance international students place on feeling a sense of belonging at their university or college. The drops were likely to be related to the pandemic. The press release launching the call for evidence can be found at: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/ofs-seeks-evidence-on-experiences-of-international-students/. Responses can be provided at: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/working-in-partnership-to-improve-international-student-integration-and-experience/. Responses should be provided by 16th May. 8/3: Councils Need to Plan For Sufficiemt Student Accommodation Says Housing Minister Rachael Maskell MP (Labour, York Central) has received a response to her written question asking what steps DLUHC is taking to help ensure that developers prioritise student needs when building student accommodation. The Housing Minister responded: “The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that it is for local authorities to identify the size, type and tenure of housing needed for different groups in the community, including students, and to reflect this in their local planning policies “Our planning practice guidance goes further to state that local authorities need to plan for sufficient student accommodation whether it consists of communal halls of residence or self-contained dwellings, and whether or not it is on campus. “Local authorities should also engage with universities and other higher educational establishments to ensure they understand the student accommodation requirements in their local area.” 3/3: Home Office Published Update Right to Rent Code of Practice The guidance for landords, homeowners and letting sgents affected by these checks can access more information on the Government website. 2/3: Government Tables Regulations on Student Housing Codes The Government yesterday laid before Parliament the following regulations: The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Specified Educational Establishments) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 197) (see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/197/contents/made). The explanatory note says of the Regulation: “The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Specified Educational Establishments) (England) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/904) specify educational establishments for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Schedule 14 to the Housing Act 2004 (“the Act”). The effect is that any building managed or controlled by such an establishment and occupied solely or principally by its students will not be a house in multiple occupation (“HMO”) for the purposes of the Act (except Part 1, which deals with housing conditions), whilst the establishment is a member of one of the specified Codes of practice. “This instrument amends the Houses in Multiple Occupation (Specified Educational Establishments) (England) Regulations 2019 (“the 2019 Regulations”) to insert the Accreditation Network UK/Unipol Code of Standards for Larger Developments for Student Accommodation Not Managed and Controlled by Educational Establishments and specify additional educational establishments for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Schedule 14 to the Housing Act 2004.” The Housing (Approval of Code of Management Practice) (Student Accommodation) (England) Order 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 198) (see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/198/contents/made). The explanatory note says of this Regulation: “The Housing (Approval of Code of Management Practice) (Student Accommodation) (England) Order 2022 (“the Order”) approves a code of practice with regard to the management of houses in multiple occupation (“HMOs”) and other living accommodation (Not managed or controlled by specified educational establishments) occupied solely or principally by full-time students of further or higher education. The Order also withdraws approval for an earlier code of practice, and revokes the Order approving the earlier code.” February 2022 17/2: Updated Right to Rent Factsheet Published The Home Office has published updated factsheets for landlords and can be accessed on the Government website. 16/2: Shadow Minister Questions Government on Support for Students to Cover Rising Energy Bills The Shadow Higher Education Minister, Matt Western MP has received a response to his written question asking what guidance the Government is giving to local authorities on the distribution to student households of funding from the £144 million made available as discretionary funding to help households with rising energy bills. The LUHC Minister responded: “My Department will provide guidance shortly to billing authorities on administering the council tax rebate scheme and the associated discretionary fund. Allocations from the discretionary fund will allow councils to support people that may need help with their energy bills but who are not eligible for the main scheme.” Matt Western MP has also received responses to his written questions asking: What recent assessment has been made of the impact of the energy price cap rise on the finances of student households? What steps the Government is taking to support student households in response to the rise of the energy price cap? The Minister for Higher Education responded: “Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own agreements over rent and bills. The government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation whether the accommodation is managed by universities or private sector organisations. “Maximum grants and loans for living costs were increased by 3.1% this academic year, and we have announced that they will increase by a further 2.3% next year. “Increases are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts of inflation in the first quarter of the calendar year after the start of the relevant academic year using the RPIX inflation index (Retail Prices Index, less Mortgage Interest Payments). “Our grant funding to the Office for Students (OfS) for the current financial year includes an allocation of £5 million to higher education (HE) providers in England in order to provide additional support for student hardship. In our guidance to the OfS on funding for the 2021/22 financial year, we made clear that the OfS should protect the £256 million allocation for the student premiums to support disadvantaged students and those that need additional help. “Many providers have hardship funds that students can apply to for assistance should individuals’ finances be affected in the academic year 2021/22. The government is also making available discretionary funding of £144 million to be provided to support vulnerable people and individuals on low incomes. Advice is available from HE providers and from other sources online to help students manage their money while they are attending their courses.” 16/2: Private Sector Rents Rise by 2% Across UK in Year to January 2022 The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have published an index of private housing rental prices which can be accessed here The main points of note: Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 2.0% in the 12 months to January 2022, up from 1.8% in the 12 months to December 2021. Private rental prices grew by 2.0% in England, 1.4% in Wales and 2.6% in Scotland in the 12 months to January 2022. The East Midlands saw the highest annual growth in private rental prices (3.6%), while London saw the lowest (0.1%). 14/2: Government Outlines Plans to Tackle Dangerous Cladding The Government wil introduce tough new measures for the industry to remove cladding and protect leaseholders from from shouldering high costs, in brief these will include: Blocking developers and product manufacturers that do not help fix the cladding scandal from the housing market The Government puts its guarantee that no leaseholder living in medium or high-rise buildings will have to pay for the removal of cladding into law New powers will allow cladding companies to be sued and subject to fines for defective products Protections for leaseholders extended to cover other fire safety defects Full details can be found on the Government website. 10/2: Labour MP Questions Government on Improving Data on the Private Rented Sector Catherine West MP has received a response to her written question asking, with reference to the recommendation of the National Audit Office's report entitled Regulation of private renting, published in December 2021, what assessment DLUHC has made of the effectiveness of dispute resolution schemes for tenants in the private rented sector (PRS), including whether those schemes (a) are accessible to all tenants, (b) provide effective redress for tenants when things go wrong and (c) provide his Department sufficient insight into emerging issues in the PRS. The Government responded: “In order to improve access to redress for private renters, it has been a legal requirement since October 2014 for letting and managing agents in England to belong to one of the two Government-approved redress schemes. The Department is committed to ensuring that the schemes’ systems and processes work well for tenants and landlords. “The schemes are independent from Government, and set out their own processes and procedures for supporting tenants, in line with the approval conditions set by Government. The schemes issue guidance to tenants and provide advice and support both by email and by phone, ensuring that digitally excluded tenants are still able to access redress. In 2020, the two schemes awarded a combined £2.3 million in compensation to tenants and landlords. The schemes also expelled and referred to trading standards 63 property agents after failing to comply with decisions. “The Department closely monitors the performance of each of the redress schemes through monthly data returns and quarterly meetings, to ensure the schemes are operating effectively and that emerging issues in the private rented sector are identified. “The Government does, however, recognise that the existing redress schemes are not accessible to all tenants. Tenants who rent directly from their landlords currently do not have access to free and impartial redress and this is not fair. This is why we have committed to require all private landlords to belong to a mandatory redress scheme, so that all private renters have access to redress where they have a legitimate complaint about their home. We will set out more details on how this commitment will be delivered in the Renters Reform White Paper later this year, with legislation following in due course.” 7/2: Commons Library publishes paper on who pays to tackle Unsafe Cladding The paper lays out the following: Current timeline of help given by Government to remediate unsafe cladding The ongoing issues and concerns regarding the progress of remediation work How this links with the Building Safety Bill The full paper can be accessed on the Commons Library. 3/2: Unite Students release Living Black at University Report Undertaken by Halpin over May 2021, this is an essential and groundbreaking new report into Black students’ experience in UK student accommodation. The report draws attention to the experiences of Black students during their time in Higher Education, with some challenging headline figures showing: More than half of Black students surveyed reported being a victim of racism in their accommodation 64% of all student respondents reported witnessing acts of racism (from both students and staff) 75% of Black students reported some level of impact on their mental health due to racism The full report can be found on the Unite Students website. 2/2 Government Publishes Levelling Up White Paper The Government has published the Levelling Up White Paper, consisting of 12 'Missions' to achieve its goals. With regards to Housing, the following is of note: One of the key missions reads as “By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.” Page 226 sets out a committment to publish a White Paper in the Spring regarding support for those in the PRS, including ending 'no-fault' Section 21 evictions and giving all tenants the right to redress Also noted is the proposal to explore new minimum standards for rented housing, and the introduction of a National Landlords Register The white paper in full can accessed here. 1/2: Minister Questioned on Process for Issuing Section 21 Notices Baroness Thomas of Winchester has received a response to her written question asking whether landlords are required to give tenants without fault the booklet How to Rent before seeking to evict them; and if so, whether they can do this at the same time as issuing a Form 6A notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy. The DLUHC Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, responded: “Under the Deregulation Act 2015, landlords cannot use the Section 21 possession procedure if they have not provided a copy of the publication “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” to the tenant. The restriction is lifted as soon as the publication is provided. However, the How to Rent guide should ideally be provided at the outset of the tenancy. Form 6A is the legally prescribed form for serving a notice requiring possession under the Section 21 possession procedure. “In respect of individual cases, it is for a court to decide whether the landlord had complied with the requirements of the Deregulation Act when they served a notice requiring possession using Form 6A, and therefore if that notice is valid. The landlord must provide evidence that they have given the tenant a valid copy of “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” when they make a claim for possession in the county court. “This requirement applies to tenancies in England which commenced on or after 1 October 2015. It does not apply where a landlord is a private registered provider of social housing or where the tenant entered into occupation of the property under a previous tenancy and the landlord has already provided the tenant with an up-to-date version of the guidance.” January 2022 25/1: Shadow Minister Questions Government on Efforts to Tackle Dangerous Cladding on Student Accommodation Matt Western MP (Shadow Minister for Higher Education) submitted a written question asking what estimates had been made of the number of student accommodation settings containing flammable cladding. The Housing Ministers response is below: “Data on the remediation progress of high-rise student accommodation buildings in England identified with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet Building Regulations is published in the Building Safety Programme data release. The latest data is available here. “The Department’s External Wall Systems data collection concerns residential buildings 18 metres and over, including student accommodation. The collection is ongoing, and we are working to improve the quality of data before publishing further summary information in due course. “We have begun a pilot data collection project for 11-18m residential buildings to identify those with unsafe cladding. We will publish further details in due course.” The National Code met with the Building Safety Team in 2021 and shared data held on the status of Code accredited buildings that had cladding identified, including data of buildings 11m-18m. 17/1: Minister Clarifies Position of Purpose Built Student Accommodation In Relation to Residential Property Developer Tax Requirements The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has given clarification on residential property developer tax requirements in relation to PBSA. The Shadow Treasury Minister queried whether the exemption for student accommodation in clauses 36 & 37 of the Finance Bill extended to privately owned student houses, and in reply the minister states: “No. The exemption covers purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) that is generally restricted to occupation during term time by students undertaking a course of education. This type of accommodation does not compete directly with the residential property market. Converting a residential property into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) does not bring such a property in scope of the exemption in Clause 37(2)(j) as the HMO is not specifically designed or adapted for use primarily as student accommodation.” The Ministers letter in full can be accessed here. Explanatory notes for the Finance Bill can be accessed here. 14/1: Government Warns Developers to Fix Cladding Crisis The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove has set down the expectation that developers must help to pay and fix the cladding crisis. He has written to industry giving them a deadline of early March to agree a fully funded plan of action including remediating unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre buildings, currently estimated to be £4 billion. A failure from developers to do this may result in the Government restricting access to Government funding and future procurements, the use of planning powers and the pursuit of of companies through the courts. If this fails he also indicated the Government would impose a solution through law. Further information on the announcement can be found on the Government website. 13/1: British Standards Institute releases new Code of Practice for the Fire Risk Appraisal of external walls The BSI has released the new Code of Practice (PAS 9980) for the Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls (FRAEW), which will apply from the 31st January 2022. This provides a methodology for the fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing multi-storey and multi occupied residential buildings, intended for use by competent fire engineers and other competent building professionals tasked with advising on the fire risk of external wall construction of existing blocks of flats. Full guidance can be found on the BSI website. 5/1: Government Publishes Research Briefing on Ending Section 21 Evictions The Government has published a long-awaited research paper that has indicated a committment to abolish 'no-fault' section 21 evictions in the private rented sector. This research paper covers: The impact of section 21 Current status of progressing the Renters Reform Bill Reactions to the abolition of section 21 Impact of the devolved administrations A White Paper and the Government response to the 2019 consultation on abolishing section 21 is expected later in 2022. 5/1: New Blog from Higher Education Policy Institute on the Accommodation Costs Survey A new blog entitled Choosing Student Accommodation, What Do You Need to Know? from HEPI director Nick Hillman has been published. The blog notes some main issues raised in the Accommodation Costs Survey 2021 report, and also notes Nick's own thoughts on the direction of the student accommodation sector, including the question as to whether we need a new term for PBSA. December 2021 10/12: Commons Library Publishes Briefing on Student Accommodation and COVID-19 The Government has issued some updated FAQs regarding student accommodation in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases and can be accessed here. Questions that have been answered include: Do I have to pay my rent if I've moved back home? (with specific reference to PBSA) What if I cannot live in my student accommodation? Can students who have left halls get a refund/discount on their rent? Is there any additional help with rent payments? Can the landlord force me to leave my private rented tenancy? 10/12: Government Needs to Take More Strategic Approach to the Private Rented Sector, Says National Audit Office The National Audit Office (independent public spending watchdog) has published a report into the regulation of the private rented sector and can be found here. The key findings to note: Privately rented properties are less likely to comply with minimum safety standards than other types of housing and are more likely to be classified as non-decent The Department has in recent years taken a piecemeal approach to intervening in the private rented sector and is now looking to take a more strategic approach - current approach is limited by gaps in the data on what problems are occurring and where The Department has limited insight into which local regulatory approaches are effective in ensuring landlords comply with their legal obligations, and in what circumstances The Department has limited insight into which local regulatory approaches are effective in ensuring landlords comply with their legal obligations, and in what circumstances There are limited redress options for tenants when things go wrong Tenants face a number of barriers in enforcing their rights, such as costs and lack of awareness of their rights The Department finds it difficult to target guidance and support schemes towards vulnerable tenants due to limitations in its understanding of tenants’ experiences November 2021 29/11: ONS Student COVID-19 Insights Survey Reports 89% Have Been Vaccinated Against COVID-19 The Office for National Statistics has published the latest experimental statistics from the Student COVID-19 Insights Survey (SCIS) in England. It includes information on the behaviors, plans, opinions and well-being of higher education students in the context of guidance on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Of note: The majority (89%) of students said they had already been vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) at least once; this is not significantly different to late October (91%). A minority (9%) of students said they had not been vaccinated against COVID-19; of those, 51% said that they were fairly or very unlikely to take a vaccine if offered and 28% said they were very or fairly likely to take a vaccine if offered. The majority (90%) of students reported they would request a test if they developed COVID-19 symptoms. Almost half (49%) of students reported taking a COVID-19 test in the last seven days Concerningly, and mirroring other research undertaken on student wellbeing during the pandemic: The average life satisfaction score for students was 6.7, which was significantly lower than those aged 16 to 29 years (6.9) and the adult population in Great Britain (7.0). The proportion of students feeling lonely often or always was 17%, significantly higher than those aged 16 to 29 years (9%) and the adult population in Great Britain (7%). Three in ten (30%) students reported that their mental health and well-being had worsened since the start of the autumn 2021 term, similar to late October (32%). 23/11: Government Repsonds to Consultation Domestic Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms The Government has published its response to its consultation on domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. A consultation was held between November 2020 and January 2021 (following a Government review of carbon monoxide alarm requirements in 2019) to consider new proposals to extend requirments on CO and smoke alarms. It garnered 161 responses from both individuals and organisations. To note: 139 respondents agreed with a proposal that legislation be amended to create an obligation for private landlords to replace alarms once informed that they are faulty The Government will bring forward legislation to require landlords and housing providers in both the social and private rented sectors to repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once they are told they are faulty. The Government will amend statutory guidance to make mandatory the installing of carbon monoxide alarms alongside the installation of fixed combustion appliances (excluding gas cookers) In any home, when a new fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers) is installed, a carbon monoxide alarm will be required by law to be installed September 2021 30/9: The September edition of the National Codes newsletter is now available to view here.