MINIMUM standards for rented accommodation are a step closer to being introduced – a century after similar legislation came into force in the UK – following unanimous approval by States Members.
However, the legislation, which would mean all rented properties had to meet a minimum standard, will be scrutinised and come back before the Assembly next month for further debate.
The law would make it necessary for all landlords to be accredited and, under the proposals, they could be issued with notices if a property failed inspections. If the notice was ignored, the landlord could be taken to court.
A ‘Rent Safe’ scheme, which grades landlords, has been introduced to highlight to tenants the Island’s good and bad landlords.
So far, seven landlords, with a total of 58 properties between them, have signed up to the voluntary scheme. Landlords with fewer than three stars – which means they do not meet minimum standards – are not displayed on the website.
Members approved the proposals for minimum standards on rented accommodation in principle 42-0, but the formal changes to the law will have to return to the States once they have been fully scrutinised by the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel.
Environment Minister Steve Luce, who brought the proposals, said: ‘Increasingly it has been recognised that housing conditions are a major determinant of health.
‘The first recognisable UK Act of Parliament [relating to minimum housing standards’] was in 1917. A century later, these regulations seek to put in place for the first time minimum standards for rented dwellings in Jersey’.
Despite the unanimous approval, a number of Members raised concerns about the proposed legislation.
St John Constable Chris Taylor asked about listed buildings and whether landlords could face sanctions for having sub-standard accommodation, even in cases where Planning officials had refused to allow modifications to historic buildings.
Meanwhile, St Helier Deputy Andrew Lewis added that the minimum standards legislation needed to be brought with a wider consideration of population policy and the Island’s housing requirements.
St Mary Deputy David Johnson, who chairs the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, and fellow panel member Deputy Tracey Vallois, indicated that they wished to review the legislation and said they would be calling the proposals in for scrutiny.
That suggestion was met with scorn by Senators Paul Routier and Andrew Green, who argued that the law was long overdue and could be amended and improved at a later date.
Senator Green, the current Health Minister and a former Housing Minister, said: ‘The former Senator [Ian] Le Marquand used to have a saying that the downfall of a good plan was the quest for a perfect plan. Well, we have a good plan here.
‘The Environment Minister talked about bringing laws into the 21st century – I hadn’t realised that some civilised societies had laws like this in the 18th century. We should hang our heads in shame.’