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.


  1. Don't be too excited. The anti - immigrant lobby in and out of the States will continue to resist any reforms that might give newcomers equal rights with "locals". For as long as a single person with quals lives in sub-standard accommodation the bigots will resist equity for all.
    The landlords lobby also has to be considered and this now includes many of non-Jersey origin who have ownership or control over "lodgings". They will not readily accept the regs as you indiicate which reduce their profits. But the issue is much wider because many "lettings" are inevitably sub-standard and probably illegal under the Planning Law and the new "Register" will reveal these once the new Data base becomes effective.

    Big brother will know where everybody lives so that the dodgy units, their owners and occupiers, will become visible and ripe for prosecution - if the will is there....
    Since there are 10,000 people without quals living in Jersey and many more with quals living in sub-standard accommodation the prosecution industry could be Jersey's next growth sector...
    how much more sensible it would be to initate a proper plan (Island Plan and Housing Strategy) to house the entire 100,000 population properly - as agreed at the Rio conference decades ago...
    and yes, Lodging Houses are the leftovers from the lowest grade under the old Tourism Registers and were vaguely inspected for standards then and by the Housing Department, when they were moved there subsequently.
    I am not aware of any "newly built" lodging houses in Jersey ever - they are mostly ex Guest Houses and Hotels that fell on hard times and were converted.
    Current regs demand quite high standards of amenity, fire safety, sound and thermal insulation because conversions are treated as separate flats more or less and they provide accommodation for those with or without quals but with no security of tenure yet....occupiers can receive SS rent rebates under the Income Support scheme if they meet minimal residential standards (SS contributions) and the 5 years rule but of course, the supply of decent standard units does not satisfy demand....
    thus we still have people living in "portacabins" - usually on farms - which are supposed to be "temporary structures" only and regularly inspected by the Health Department...
    farm animals might fly etc...pure fantasy...
    ...Just as ALL the candidates in the 2011 Senatorial Campaign PROMISED to address the "scandal" of non quals housing and of course we have not heard a squeak from any of them since then...
    You have 9 months to do better Deputy....

  2. Not before time Monty. As we are all aware some people are living in terrible circumstances which should not be happening in this day and age. Damp, condensation and mould spores are not only unpleasant but can cause all sorts of health problems. Having recently moved from accommodation that suffered from this, an ongoing persistent cough I had has stopped almost immediately. Not good for anybody, but particularly babies and children.

    Keep pressing for this Monty, so everybody can enjoy a decent, habitable home.

  3. Deputy Tadier,

    What though is the legal definition of "uninhabitable"?

  4. Uninhabitable: Good question. It is not covered under article 1 under 'interpretation', which means that ultimately it will depend on precedents being set. A flood, for example, would quite clearly equate to being uninhabitable, as would havng a hole in the ceiling which let in rain and wind.

    Does mould constitute it not being habitable? It may well do if it represents a health risk.

    The application of the Lodging Houses Law will be useful when it comes to the interpretation, as they already have to make these calls when they inspect properties.

  5. The Health Dept's recent poposals to enforce minimum standards were greeted with a sustained lobby of derision and calls of "nazi jackboot" interference when announced. The opposition came from many with supposed "progressive" views too - what a surprise.
    I video recorded the public meeting at the Town Hall which was presented by a couple of Health Dept civil servants without any visible support from their Minister or any other politicians of that Dept - so it is blatantly obvious that these regulations will be a long time in coming...
    The publicity for the meting was minimal too - so that hardly anybody turned out to learn the facts directly - preferring to rely upon the sensationalist outpourings on the "accredited" media and even a blog or two! I posted the entire recording on www.tomgruchy.blogspot.com where it cans still be found by anybody who is interested (nobody I guess).

    Good luck Monty but I asked Dep Green for an update interview and to join in a discussion on other housing matters too this week....a losing lottery ticket for anybody who can guess his response.
    See you all at the autumn elections again next year - you suckers...

  6. The property management companies should show the right path to their customer. So that they can manage and invest better in their properties..

  7. Lodging-houses must meet the standards in terms of home facilities and utilities. It must not good in giving shelter but also to make the tenants feel comfortable and safe.