Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Landlords and their landlord associations have long called for a crack-down on the rogue operators in their towns. But councils have been ham-strung from enforcing laws against them due to a snail-speed legal system which imposes poultry fines that are no real deterrent.

All this may be about to change with the introduction of a new Government proposal making its way through Parliament in the form of The Housing and Planning Bill. The measures involved would allow councils to be more effective in their enforcement, and tenants could seek a rent refund where their housing fails to meet lawful safety standards. Where landlords persist in providing unsafe housing, they could be stopped by means of a banning order.

A new report by a group calling itself “New Policy Institute” in conjunction with Citizen’s Advice, a longstanding campaigner for low income tenants’ rights titled “Paying a high price for a faulty product”, claims that councils are allowing 700,000 houses to be rented out below standard.

The report claims that the rapid growth of the private rented sector (PRS) over the last decade, “with no corresponding intervention to drive up standards”, means poor standards are affecting all types of rentals.

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17% of privately rented homes in England contain a Category 1 hazard the report claims, posing a serious health risk including exposed wiring, leaking roofs and even rat infestations, and equates to 700,000 households.

The report claims that the many existing laws are poorly enforced by councils “skewing this market”, for which the measures to be introduced in The Housing & Planning Bill 2015 are sorely needed to allow councils to bring the private rented sector up-to-scratch.

According to the report The Bill presents an opportunity to improve these extremely poor safety levels. Adding insult to injury, the report claims that exorbitant letting agent fees make it difficult to move to escape bad housing.

“The Housing and Planning Bill 2015 offers a prime opportunity to improve private rented housing and to ban known rogue landlords from the market. We need to rebalance the relationship between private renters with few housing options and landlords who are, at best, indifferent to and, at worst, dangerously negligent of their tenants’ safety”, says the report.

The Report’s Key findings:

● 1 in 5 households is now renting from a private landlord. Through choice or not, more and more people are living in the private rented sector instead of getting a mortgage.

● The majority of private rented households are working family units: 29% with children, 21% couples and 15% single adult households. A quarter are workless and only a tenth are working sharers.

● There are 3.3 million working private rented households in England, including 2.0 million in intermediate or higher-tier occupations.

● The private rented sector includes a range of family types with a range of means. At one end 500,000 workless household have an annual income of less than £10,000. At the other, 500,000 working households have an annual income of at least £50,000.

● Housing costs in the private rented sector are higher than other tenures. The average private rent is £765, almost double the average rent paid to social landlords (£409 per month). Even first time buyers spend less on housing (£702 per month).

● Households containing someone in a higher-tier occupation tend to spend more on rent. The typical rent for a higher occupation family with children is £720 per month compared to £620 per month for lower occupations and £570 per month for workless families with children.

● For households in the private rented sector, rent accounts for at least a fifth of net household income on average, regardless of family size, income and occupation.

● The average total cost of fees charged by letting agencies at the start of a private tenancy was £355. 70% of tenants renting from a letting agency were charged an administration fee, 62% were charged a contract fee and 50% were charged for a credit check.

● Despite the higher cost of private rented housing, 17% contain a Category 1 hazard, compared to 12% of owner-occupied homes and 6% of social rented homes. Overall 700,000 private rented households live in unsafe housing in England.

● Across the income scale at least 1 in 8 private renting households is living in unsafe housing. A quarter of properties with rent less than £350 per month were unsafe. More than 10% of properties costing £900 per month or more to rent were unsafe.

● 700,000 households are paying on average £650 per month to their landlords to occupy unsafe housing. After accounting for housing benefit, an estimated £4.2 billion was given to landlords in England in 2013, from renters’ own income, for unsafe housing.

● A fifth of households in the private rented sector were unsatisfied with repairs that had been done to their home. The most common reason for this was that the landlord did not bother.

Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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