A new five-year partnership has been launched between the housing charity Shelter and British Gas. The aim is to improve the standard of a million rented homes in the private sector. Landlords will be given help to meet the minimum standards for private rented accommodation. There will also be a census which has been described as the “widest ever census of private rented living”.

Landlord insurance clients may be surprised to learn that Shelter reckon that something like 1.4 million private rented homes do not meet the basic standard of being a “decent home”. This is 37% of the total number of private rentals. Since 2001 the number of private rentals has grown from just over 2 million to over 3.6 million. The size of the increase is evidence that we have become a nation of property tenants and shows how the private rented sector has mushroomed. In the old days of the Rent Acts few property owners would be brave enough to let them to new tenants for fear of the legislation laying down fair rents and restricting the landlord’s right to evict.

It is a shame that some landlords are irresponsible enough to neglect their duty to keep properties in a reasonable state of repair. Shelter have done some research that suggests that as many as 85,000 complaints about landlords were made to councils across England last year. A staggering 62% of these concerned serious and life-threatening hazards. There were 487 successful prosecutions against private landlords last year. Newham, Leeds, Salford and Manchester were particularly active in bringing cases against bad landlords.

Landlords have no excuse for neglecting their tenants’ safety. Much of the work needed to keep the property up the required standard is common sense and there is a great deal of guidance on the web about things like gas safety checks