Debate on rental housing ‘minimum standards’ law

A NEW law giving government officers the power to enter rented housing and enforce ‘minimum standards’ will be debated by States Members today.

In their first sitting after the summer recess, Members will decide whether to grant final approval to the law, which was agreed in principle by their predecessors in December last year. 

The main objectives of the legislation, which is being led by Environment Minister John Young, are to establish a set of minimum standards for rented accommodation and to give States’ Environmental Health officers the powers to enforce them. 

The minimum standards, which would be introduced by ministerial order, would consist of 29 potential hazards against which premises would be assessed on a formal scoring system. These would include damp, mould growth and unsafe staircases. Landlords would also need to ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms had been fitted, and that adequate safety checks on gas and electricity services had been carried out. 

Director of Environmental Health Stewart Petrie said that the new powers would help Jersey to remain an attractive place to live and work. 

‘If we want our children to get a proper start in life, and if we want our elderly residents to be safe and healthy in their homes, then we need to make sure that landlords are meeting minimum standards,’ he said. 

‘Similarly, if we want to continue to attract people here to work in agriculture and service industries, then staff accommodation will have to be suitable.’ 

However, the law has been badly received by the body that represents landlords in the Island. The president of the Jersey Landlords Association, Robert Weston, has denounced the law as ‘back to front’, claiming that it will lead to costs that will inevitably be passed on to tenants. 

‘This is typical of what our government has started to do,’ he said. ‘It is completely back-to-front legislation, where officials say it will all be wonderful, it will cost nothing, and so on, but then they bring in licensing and registration insisting on certain minimum standards for which someone has to pay. And landlords are not going to keep absorbing those costs, so they end up being passed on to tenants.’ 

When asked whether there would be scope for a licensing and registration regime to be put in place, Mr Petrie said that, while the law would allow for it, it would have to be a ‘political decision’. 

Deputy Young said that the law was long overdue. ‘This important law is not a panacea to solve all of Jersey’s housing problems,&