The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, a national charity which helps people to resolve their problems, continues to claim that private landlords provide a sub-standard service while “pocketing £5.6bn in rent on unsafe housing”.
The charity claims that 16 per cent of privately rented housing is unsafe compared with 6 per cent in the social rented market. The Bureaux further claims that £1.3bn in housing benefit is going to rogue landlords.
The charity said 740,000 households in England were living in privately rented homes that presented a severe threat to their health, including 510,000 families with children.
The homes, the Bureaux claims “all have category one hazards”, which include dangers such as a risk of falls or excessive cold. These are the most serious hazards to be identified under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) use by local housing inspectors when carrying our safety inspections.
The report, produced by the New Policy Institute (NPI) and commissioned by the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux “A nation of renters: how England moved from secure family homes towards rundown rentals” paints an extremely gloomy picture of the private rented sector (PRS).
It claims to “explore how renting in England has changed dramatically in the past few decades” with the number of households living in the private rental sector doubling in the last ten years.
It also finds that over a million families are raising children in a privately rented home, treble the number a decade ago.
The main findings are that:
- One in six privately rented homes in England (16 per cent) are physically unsafe – far higher than the 6 per cent in the social rented market. 740,000 household live in these homes.
- Half a million children are living in unsafe private rented homes.
- These homes have Category 1 hazards which can include severe damp, excessive cold, rodent infestation and risk of falls.
- Rogue landlords are receiving £5.6billion a year for unsafe homes, 1.3bn of this is paid from housing benefit.
- Private renters living in homes with a Category 1 hazard pay on average £157 per week on rent.
The report forms part of Citizens Advice’s “Settled and Safe Campaign” for better protections for private renters. The campaign recommends that:
- Tenants should be entitled to rent refunds where properties are dangerous or not fit to live in.
- A national landlord register should set up. This could help ensure landlords operating illegally cannot move to different areas to avoid legal action.
- Councils should also consider setting up local licensing. This will help to ensure landlords are providing the quality of housing and service the area needs and help to ensure tenants know what they can expect from a good landlord.
The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, told the Guardian Newspaper “rogue landlords were putting profits before safety”.
“The government has rightly said it wants to tackle the country’s housing crisis – it must make targeting dodgy landlords, giving tenants better rights and driving up standards a major part of that effort.”
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said the report showed the need for the government to provide better resources for enforcement by councils, which were struggling after cuts.
It said landlords had invested £50bn a year in private rented housing to improve standards.
Alan Ward, chairman of the RLA, said:
“Today’s report highlights the growing need for better enforcement of the wide range of powers already available to local authorities.
“The hazards identified by CAB are already illegal and calls into question the use of housing benefit for unfit properties”.
Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, said:
“No tenant should expect to live in unsafe housing which is why we have already introduced a range of powers for councils to tackle rogue landlords backed by £6.7 million of Government funding.”
“The majority of landlords provide decent well maintained homes and unnecessary and excessive regulation on the private rented sector, would push up prices and restrict choice for tenants.”
A spokesperson for the LandlordZONE® website commented:
“If things are as bad as this report indicates, it does beg the question as to the efficacy of local authority oversight of conditions in rental properties on their patch for which they are responsible: should tenants be allowed to stay in these dangerous conditions one day longer, and what are the local authorities planning to do about re-housing them?
Citizen’s Advice continues its Anti-Private Landlord Campaign – http://t.co/b8f9PzJEP6
— LandlordZONE® (@LandlordZONE) May 22, 2015