16 December 2013

Better Housing Standards now on the Agenda

Today I had what I hope will prove to be a productive meeting with Deputy Andrew Green, Minister of Housing, and the director of Corporate Policy to discuss what can be done to regulate private rental standards. 

It is a curiosity that in Jersey, the only residential accommodation to be inspected [and regulated] is Lodging Houses. It is not clear why only these units have to meet basic standards, and not other housing units. It is likely a historic legacy from the heyday of Tourism, when there were a lot more seasonal workers, and therefore more lodging houses.

The Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011 came into force in May this year. Article 9 (below) states that you do not have to pay your rent if the property is uninhabitable. 

Article 9 Premises uninhabitable 

If a residential unit that is the subject of a residential tenancy agreement becomes uninhabitable through any event other than a malicious act of the tenant – 
(a) the tenant is not required to pay any rent or other amount payable under the agreement in respect of any time during which the residential unit is uninhabitable; and 
(b) the Court may, on the application of the landlord or tenant, make an order varying or terminating the agreement if in all the circumstances the Court considers it just to do so. 

It would be interesting for someone to test this, but I suspect many tenants might be reluctant to for various reasons: they may be scared of getting kicked out, though this would be unlikely. They may know the landlords personally. Many, of course, would not be even be aware of the law

However, it would be interesting if someone out there, with rising damp, were to inform the landlord that they would not be paying their rent until it was fixed. The ball would then be in the court of the landlord...

This is clearly not the preferred option of the department. Rather, they see the need for some kind of regulation, possibly inspections, for ALL rental properties, qualified, unqualified and social rented (the latter will be provided for under the new housing unit).

I will continue to press for these reforms. Watch this space. The days of Rupert Rigsby and his sub-standard properties may be numbered.