‘Hundreds of thousands’ of private renters in unsafe properties

‘Hundreds of thousands’ of private renters in unsafe properties

A SURVEY of landlord and tenants for Citizens Advice found that many landlords ‘don’t know or understand’ legal obligations over alarms and safety, and residents aren’t aware of their rights.

The survey for Citizens Advice outlined that ‘weak regulation of private renting’ has left hundreds of thousands of tenants ‘living in hazardous homes in England’, with many landlords not knowing or understanding their legal obligations, and many renters remaining unaware of their rights ‘or don’t feel able to enforce them’.

In particular, this means many live in homes with ‘health-affecting hazards’ such as mould, or safety issues including ‘not working or missing’ smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Citizens Advice stated that it wants a national housing body for private renting, which would set standards and create a home “MOT”, as well as a ‘fit-and-proper-person' test for landlords, alongside standardising rental contracts.

The survey outlined that 75% of landlords agreed that a single national housing body, responsible for setting standards, ‘would make their job easier’, with many not meeting obligations on repair ‘that they are responsible for. Around 60% of tenants identified disrepair in their home in the last two years ‘that was not caused by them and that their landlord was responsible for fixing’, while 15% said that the disrepair identified ‘was a major threat to their health and safety’.

Another 32% of tenants said their homes did not have carbon monoxide alarms ‘despite requiring one’, affecting around 900,000 homes, while 25% of landlords ‘failed to make sure’ that there is a smoke alarm on each floor of all of their properties. In turn, 26% of landlords failed to carry out an annual gas safety check, or to make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms were working, while 31% ‘find it difficult’ to keep up with rules and regulations.

Almost half, or 49%, said they ‘did not know the potential penalty’ for not checking smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order ‘on the first day of the tenancy’, with the fine up to £5,000. Again, the same proportion ‘didn’t know the penalty for not carrying out a gas safety check’.

While the government has reformed the private rental sector with laws to ensure all homes are ‘fit to be lived in’ and banning ‘most’ tenant fees, renters ‘lack the power they need to ensure standards are consistent’.

Citizens Advice also noted that landlords and tenants ‘lack the knowledge they need for standards to be upheld’, with 24% of tenants having issues in the last year getting repairs completed, and over 2,500 were ‘being harassed’ by landlords.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, stated: ‘Too many private renters live in hazardous homes - often with dangerous flaws. Weak and confusing regulation means landlords can struggle to understand their legal obligations, while tenants find it hard to get problems in their homes resolved. The government must establish a national housing body to ensure landlords let property that meet legal standards, and gives renters the support they need when they don’t.’