What might the future hold for the Decent Homes Standard?

The Decent Homes Standard was introduced by the UK government in 2000, and revised in 2006, to ensure that all social housing should meet a minimum standard of conditions by 2010. The criteria that every council or housing association home should meet are that they:

  • Are in a reasonable state of repair
  • Are free from any hazards that pose a serious risk to health or safety
  • Are equipped with reasonably modern facilities and have effective heating & insulation

However, just last year, it was reported that more than half a million social homes in England alone do not meet these basic standards, and high-profile cases, like the Grenfell Tower fire, have raised even more questions over how the health and safety of social housing tenants is potentially being put at risk because their homes aren’t safe.

The government released a ‘social housing green paper’ in August 2018, after surveying thousands of social housing tenants across the country; the paper set out to tackle five themes, including ensuring homes are safe and decent, as well as helping to resolve complaints, empowering tenants, addressing stigma and supporting home ownership. They invited responses from tenants and others with an interest in the social housing sector to submit their views during the consultation period, which ended in Nov 2018. They plan to review the Decent Homes Standard to ensure that it is still meeting the needs of the industry and tenants.

Is a new version of the Decent Homes Standard needed?

Inside Housing, a leading industry magazine for the housing industry as a whole, believe that a new or significantly updated Decent Homes Standard is needed to deal with the changing issues facing those living in social housing and start to rebuild the trust that is needed between communities and the authorities. Some of the suggestions for ways that the Decent Homes Standard could be improved, include:

  • Changes to the current policy that failure in one area of the Decent Homes Standard could still mean that the property is compliant i.e. if it meets three of the four areas. Social homes should now have to meet the required standards in all areas in order to be compliant
  • Energy efficiency and thermal performance of homes should be a higher priority to counteract the fuel poverty that many of those living in social housing experience
  • Incorporating changes to relevant health and safety regulations resulting from a bill currently being debated in parliament, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, including a programme for councils and housing associations needing to carry out work to comply with new rules
  • Introducing the same safety measures for social housing that are currently in place for private rentals e.g. Fire safety protocols

What is CEL Solicitors’ take on the subject?

We think that the introduction of the Decent Homes Standard and the expansive works that have taken place over the last two decades have made a huge positive difference to millions of lives. However, we feel that in certain areas, the Decent Homes Standard, as it currently stands, is not working as it should be, and tenants are still suffering as a result. We speak to social housing tenants on a regular basis who are living in homes that are unsafe, putting them and their families at risk; or with physical and mental health issues made worse because of the disrepair in their home, which we don’t think is acceptable.

We’re hopeful that the government will listen to tenants and other organisations that have given their views during the consultation period, and that it will result in changes being made to the Decent Homes Charter that will make social landlords even more accountable for the state of the homes they rent out. We believe that everyone has a right to live in a safe home, so we’re looking forward to seeing how the Decent Homes Charter can be made fit for purpose to benefit social housing tenants and communities all over the country.

If you are living in a social housing property that has fallen into disrepair or you feel is unsafe, and your landlord is not taking your complaints seriously, contact us today for free legal advice.