States votes to ensure rental properties are fit for purpose
GUERNSEY’S private landlords will be legally required in future to make sure their rental properties meet basic standards and are not dangerous, despite resistance from States members who complained that the measures were bureaucratic and unnecessary.
It means that tenants will not have to put up with unhabitable accommodation, such as black mould and damp, leaky roofs, faulty wiring that makes the electrical appliances blow up, and a shower that cannot be used because it leaks into the flat below.
The new regulations are aimed particularly at supporting vulnerable people on low incomes who may live in employer-tied accommodation, not have English as a first language, and have chronic physical and mental health problems.
The law replaces one from 1934, and the new requirements include a deposit protection scheme so that deposits can be returned to responsible tenants after they move out.
One of the themes that emerged out of the debate was how many States members are also landlords, with 12 deputies making declarations of interest.
Deputy Peter Ferbrache thought they were trying to ‘cure ills that don’t exist’ and Deputy David De Lisle was worried about extra red tape, the need for additional civil servants and new charges.
‘The cost which is being placed on the owners of properties will obviously then be placed on the rents, so it means that the rents will go up as a result of this administration, and people are saying already that rents are high enough at the current time without burdening tenants with additional amounts.’
Some deputies were keen to put across the side of the property owner.
Victoria Oliver was once left with a £10,000 bill when a tenant moved out with no recourse, Deputy Lyndon Trott had a tenant who drew a picture of Satan on the lounge wall and covered it with excrement, and Deputy Al Brouard once had to dispose of a tenant’s pornography collection.
One thing that was stressed frequently during the debate was the local Private Landlords Association was very responsible, but that not all landlords were members of the association.
Deputy Oliver thought that some of the measures would be very costly.
‘It’s really sad that we actually have to bring these laws to Guernsey because the vast majority of landlords have good properties and they’re decent people and will always give the deposit back, even though half the time they should actually be keeping the deposit.’
Deputy Jennifer Merrett spoke up for tenants living in sub-standard accommodation and she said that some of her political colleagues were out of touch.
‘This is about introducing a basic standard for human habitation, and in my last four years as deputy and previous to that, I have been called by members of our community and asked to see the living standards that they are not enjoying, and I have to be honest, I have been totally and utterly shocked at some of what I’ve seen.’
After a day of debate, all the propositions were passed.