New rules are coming in to make sure private landlords keep their properties up to standard, just like social landlords have to.

So, the UK’s “levelling up” as it recovers from the challenges of the last couple of years. That’s great – but what does it actually mean, in real terms? Well, for one thing it’s looking like loading a new set of regulations onto private rental agreements. Assuming it all goes ahead as planned, the government’s set to announce that all private landlords will need to assure that the properties they’re renting out are warm, safe and well maintained.

The new rules could see as many as 800,000 properties falling short of the required standards and needing to be fixed up. There are some teeth in the new system, too. Private landlords who fail to live up to their obligations can be kicked off the official list. Not only that, but their tenants will also be able to use a new complaints system to get things resolved.

Other ideas currently being looked at include upgraded rules for energy efficiency and some new standards for fixtures and fittings in furnished properties.

What are the current rules for private landlords?

Right now, there really aren’t that many protections for people who rent privately. Social housing landlords are legally responsible for making sure their rented properties are in good condition, and even updated as needed. Those rules just don’t apply to private landlords - and with almost 4.5 million (that’s practically 1 in 5) UK households renting their homes privately, that’s a lot of families falling through the cracks.

Why is the new system coming in now?

There have actually been calls for an update to the private rental rules for a long time now, with campaigners arguing for a clamp-down on dodgy or negligent landlords. The idea is to bring the rules in line with the systems that already exist for properties rented through housing associations and local councils. The first major target the government’s aiming for is to cut the number of badly maintained or unfit properties in half by the end of the decade.

Let’s take a second to get a sense of the scale of problem here. In 2019, an English Housing Survey commissioned by the Ministry of Housing estimated that almost a quarter of privately rented properties weren’t up to the required standard for “decent homes”. That’s well over a million households living in properties that aren’t safe, warm or maintained well enough.

This is all part of a general shake-up of private rental rules that’s been brewing for a few years. Back in 2019, the Tenant Fees Act set a cap on the deposits and other fees a private landlord could charge. That rule change alone meant that thousands of private renters suddenly found they were owed refunds worth hundreds of pounds. Of course, that depended on people realising they’d been overcharged and actively claiming the money back from their landlords – which is a problem we tackle every day at RIFT with tax refunds.

The incoming system should help to make sure UK families are living in decent conditions, but it’ll still be critical that they understand their new rights – and know how to complain when they’re lumbered with a rogue landlord.

Check back here soon for more news and updates from the UK’s leading tax refund specialists.

If you're saving for a deposit for your first rental or house purchase then check our tax refund calculator. 2/3 people due a tax refund because they had to cover the cost of work related travel or other expenses aren't aware they are owed money. An average first refund is worth around £2,500 so it could top your fund quite nicely.

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