The Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities has launched a consultation on introducing a Decent Homes Standard to the rented sector, which would mean landlords are legally bound to make sure their property meets a reasonable standard.

The consultation asks whether privately rented homes should be required to be kept in a good state of repair with efficient heating, suitable facilities, and free from serious hazards like major damp or fire risks.

The consultation seeks views on whether such new standards should be introduced and on how they should be enforced.

Over a fifth of the 4.4 million privately rented homes in England are in poor condition.

Housing Secretary Greg Clark said: “I want to see a thriving private rented sector, but that does not mean that tenants should have to suffer homes that are not of decent standard.

“This consultation asks what the minimum standard for privately rented homes should be.”

Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent said: “We welcome these plans to extend the Decent Homes Standard to private rented homes.

“As the private rented sector has grown to overtake the social sector in size, not enough action has been taken on the poorer conditions private tenants must put up with. Private rented homes are more costly to heat and at a higher risk of disrepair and damp problems. There is no reason why private tenants should expect a worse service than social tenants.

“This crucial measure will help tenants get value for money, whoever they rent from, and stop landlords from profiting by cutting corners.”

Gavin Smart, Chief Executive at Chartered Institute of Housing said: “All renters should be able to live in decent, well maintained homes. We welcome the commitment to introduce a new Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector as part of the government’s new deal for renters.

“We look forward to seeing the details set out in the consultation and discussing the proposals with our members.”

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Standards in the private rented sector are improving. That is why private renters are more likely to be satisfied with their accommodation than those in the social rented sector.

“The Government’s plans should focus on making it easier for private landlords, tenants and councils to understand what is expected of them by simplifying the almost 170 laws already affecting the sector. The plans need to also recognise crucial differences between private and social rented housing, including in the age and types of properties in each.

“In the end, all the laws in the world will do nothing without improved enforcement against the minority of landlords who tarnish the reputation of the responsible, law-abiding majority. That requires properly resourced councils tackling the criminals and rogues, whilst allowing the responsible majority to easily prove their home is safe and compliant.”

Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “We are pleased that the Government is making progress on their commitment to extending a legally binding Decent Homes Standard to improve conditions in the private rented sector.

“It will be vital that councils are sufficiently resourced, through new burdens funding, to support the implementation of the standard, and that it is introduced in a way which minimises disruption to the overall supply of stock in the private rented sector market.

“To go even further towards tackling insecure and unfit housing, we would like to see inappropriate Local Housing Allowance rates addressed, and councils to have stronger selective licensing powers by removing the requirement for Secretary of State approval for larger schemes.”

The consultation will run for six weeks and seeks views from tenants, landlords, and others in the sector.