The latest legislative development is the Public Health and Safety (Rented Dwellings) (Jersey) Law 201- (the “Rented Dwellings Law”), which the States Assembly approved last December. It will come into force once it has been sanctioned by the Privy Council.
The Rented Dwellings Law was prepared with input from officers from Planning, Housing, Health and Social Services and Jersey Fire and Rescue. Its aim is to set minimum standards across the rented dwelling sector to match those already adopted by the Social Housing sector.
Under the Rented Dwellings Law the Minister for the Environment is made responsible for introducing measures to ensure minimum standards of health and safety are met by rented dwellings. This will be achieved by the Minister making Orders, which among other things may prescribe what structural or other defects to be found in rented dwellings will be regarded as hazards, the method of assessing risks posed by these hazards and the level of risk that is acceptable for any hazard. The Minister is also given the power to prepare, issue and revise codes of practice to provide practical guidance in respect of any provision of the Law or its Orders.
These Ministerial powers are given teeth by the powers of investigation and enforcement contained in the Rented Dwellings Law. There is a range of enforcement options, from the issuing of “hazard awareness advice” to the landlord and/or the tenant through to the issuing of an “improvement notice” to the landlord or, in the most serious cases, the issuing to the landlord of a “prohibition notice”.
Perhaps more controversially, the Rented Dwellings Law gives the States the power to make Regulations to establish a scheme of licensing rented dwellings, and in particular to enable the Minister to issue and charge for licences. Unlike Orders, which are made by Ministers and presented to the States Assembly, Regulations are made by the States Assembly itself, so any proposed Regulations to introduce a licensing system would require a vote of the Assembly.
The meaningful detail in relation to the Rented Dwellings Law will be contained in the Orders and Regulations which are made pursuant to it. Whilst it will, as always, be a case of suspending full judgement until the detail is known, it is heartening that the Minister has made clear to the States Assembly his commitment to achieving the right balance: “I can ensure Members that I will work with them across government to ensure that whatever is necessary to have a strong, vibrant rental sector, where tenants are protected, but landlords can also run their businesses without unnecessary bureaucracy.”