Dear Lord Hall
Panorama: The Great Housing Benefit Scandal – 20th April 2015
I am writing to express the Residential Landlord Association’s deep concerns regarding the above programme.
The programme made a number of serious allegations, ending as it did with a suggestion that local authorities do not have sufficient powers to tackle the problem of poor standard rented accommodation and that tenants have few rights.
The absence of a representative of a landlord body from the programme therefore gave a skewed and misleading impression of the sector.
Including a spokesperson would have provided an opportunity to explain that there are over 100 Acts of Parliament containing around 400 regulations affecting the private rented market. I enclose a copy of this information.
Furthermore, I should be grateful for a reply on the following points:
- Why did the programme not explain that the kind of conditions outlined in the programme are already illegal under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System which local authorities have a duty to uphold?
- Had the tenants whose properties the programme featured reported their conditions to their local authorities? If so, how did the councils respond? If not, why not?
- Why did the programme not mention the issue of enforcement? Regulations are useless without proper enforcement. For example: 54% of councils fear they will not be able to fund their statutory obligations, which include Environmental Health (LGIU and Management Journal survey).
- Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show also that during the last Parliament, the budgets of local authority enforcement departments were cut by over 37% per head of population in England.
In 2013, a Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the Private Rented Sector outlined concerns “about reports of reductions in staff who have responsibility for enforcement and tenancy relations and who have an important role in making approaches to raising standards successful.”
- Why did the programme not point out that the accommodation featured – Caravan Park, Hostel and Hotel - is not typical of the private rented sector?
- Why did a programme purporting to cover housing across the UK focus entirely on properties in London and the South East, parts of the country where pressures on housing and the lack of accommodation to rent are unrepresentative of the rest of the country?
Last month, the RLA raised similar concerns with the programme’s Editor about the failure to include a representative of a landlord association to respond to the allegations contained within a programme on the housing crisis.
This included suggestions that the private rented sector was somehow unregulated. In his response he noted: “I appreciate the reminder that the RLA is out there and keen to make its voice heard, and I will certainly bear them in mind when we return to the topic of housing in future.”
It is disappointing that the BBC has once again decided to ignore the views of those bodies representing the vast majority of responsible landlords providing decent accommodation to their tenants.
In light of the nature of the programme, I would welcome an early broadcast opportunity on the BBC to respond to the misrepresentations of the sector made within it.
Given the concerns the RLA’s members will have about the programme, I am publishing a copy of this letter on the RLA’s website and am sending a copy also to Rona Fairhead as Chair of the BBC Trust.
I look forward to receiving your reply.