The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is calling for renters to be given the legal right to money back if the property they are living in is structurally unsound, has unsafe wiring or is riddled with damp or mould.
According to Lisa Bachelor writing for The Guardian Monday, “Tenants are more likely to get their money back when they buy a dodgy toaster than they are from a landlord if their home is dangerously uninhabitable, according to a damning new report.”
Citizens Advice in its Renting Uncovered report (published January 2015), is calling for renters to be given the legal right to money back if the property they are living in is structurally unsound, has unsafe wiring or is riddled with damp or mould.
Citizens Advice say that although there are statutory obligations on a landlords to repair a fundamental fault in a rented property, landlords can evict the tenant if they decide pursue their rights to force the landlord to do the repairs.
This CAB argue goes against the Sale of Goods Act, which states that goods people purchase must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, and which forces retailers to fix any problems.
Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, has said that renters’ rights were stuck in the dark ages.
“These days people rightly expect to get their money back if something they pay for is not up to scratch. Private renters can end up thousands of pounds out of pocket when they are let a home which turns out to be unfit to live in.
“We’re calling for a system which provides people with a refund if a private rented home doesn’t meet the most basic standards like safe electrics and being structurally sound.”
CAB wants to introduce Rent Repayment Orders, in other words, fines for landlords, to cover private tenants whose homes are uninhabitable or need substantial repairs. In fact Rent Repayment Orders do already exist for HMO landlords who rent without a license. The charity suggests the money from these fines should be paid to tenants.
Chief executive officer of the National Landlords Association, Richard Lambert, has said the CAB is tarring all landlords with the brush when the vast majority of tenants are happy with their properties.
He said: “There are times when well-meaning landlords do not respond adequately to their tenants’ needs. In these circumstances, surely education and support are more effective than penalties and demonisation?
The housing charity Shelter in a report published last year are claiming that “revenge” or “retaliatory evictions” are a growing problem and are calling for a change in the law on housing tenure to combat the problem.
This was followed by the introduction of a private members bill by Sarah Teather MP last year which was defeated in the Commons but is to be re-introduced in January 2015 in the House of Lords.
However, many in the industry are saying that the figures being produced by Shelter and CAD are a gross exaggeration of the problem and this has been to some extent be supported by the findings of a mini parliamentary inquiry that has stated that there is a lot of confusion over the numbers involved, that no reliable figures exist and that more objective research is needed to produce proper evidence based legislation.
Tom Entwistle, Editor of LandlordZONE and an experienced landlord himself commented:
“I feel that CAB and Shelter get a distorted view of this problem because they only see the tenants that are in trouble. I am convinced that Shelter’s figures vastly exaggerate the “revenge eviction” problem. Landlord Action, a firm of London based eviction specialists with 20 years experience say that an analysis of their figures shows that no more than 2% of all evictions involve solely repair issues.
“In my experience of dealing with landlord and tenant complaints over an extended period, evictions rarely involve just one issue: rent arrears predominate, closely followed by damage to the property and anti-social behaviour. Repairs come way down the list of reasons why responsible landlords evict tenants.
“Responsible landlords welcome tenants reporting repair issues as they want to maintain their properties and prevent further costs by not tackling repair issues as soon as they are aware of them. By far the majority of landlords, in my experience, want to retain their good tenants as long as possible, so will always do repairs when asked.
“It can take up to 9 months to evict a tenant under the current legal process, and with legal costs, almost always dilapidations damage to the property in a arrears situation, the rent arrears themselves and void periods before getting a new tenant in place, the whole process can cost a landlord many thousands of pounds. Why would they want to evict a good rent-paying tenant?”
“So, revenge evictions do exist, there’s no doubt about that, but these happen on the fringes of the business, by those landlords who are prepared to use “other means” to intimidate and operate largely outside the law.
“The vast majority of responsible landlord would welcome a crack down by local authorities on these “on the fringe” rogue landlords.
“In my view CAB may have hit on something sensible with the idea of “Rent Fines” where landlords let their properties fall into disrepair. This would be, in my opinion a far better solution than a change in the eviction laws, which would have only one result: it would drive responsible landlords out of the rentals business because of the fear of being unable to evict bad tenants, and it would give tenants less choice than they have now.”
Renting Uncovered report