A prominent campaigning letting agent has discovered that more than 6,000 tenants in one region alone have complained to local authorities about their landlords in the past three years - producing only one successful prosecution by a council as a result.
Ajay Jagota of the Newcastle and north east England letting agency KIS used Freedom of Information requests submitted to Tyne and Wear local authorities to discover the figures.
A total of 6,297 complaints about the condition of privately rented properties or the behaviour of landlords were received in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 by the local authorities. However only one council – Sunderland – has brought a successful prosecution against a landlord in the same period.
The highest number of complaints was received in Newcastle, where complaints rose steadily from 1,007 in 2014 to 1,127 in 2016 – a rise of eight per cent.
Sunderland by contrast saw complaints fall from 509 in 2014 to 290 last year. Gateshead and North Tyneside both saw complaint numbers fall from 2014 to 2015 but rising again in 2016.
South Tyneside council refused to supply the information, claiming that although it holds the information it would take an officer 18 hours to retrieve it, what the authority describes as “substantial effort and disproportionate exercise of trawling”.
“To put these figures into context, every day in every local authority in Tyne and Wear at least one person complains about the condition of their rented home– yet only one rogue landlord has been convicted in three years” says Jagota, who is also founder of deposit replacement insurance product Dlighted.
“A large amount of these complaints will of course be vexatious, unreasonable or more effectively resolved informally, but nonetheless no-one can look at these figures and say the system works” he says.
“With a General Election under way, all the main political parties are making a pitch to voters who rent but despite my own affiliations I have a sense that the proposed policies are just tinkering around the edges when more profound reform is needed.
“It's critical for all good operators in the private rented sector that the rogues are brought to task and the only way that can happen is that the local authority execute the powers invested in them and ensure they take action when complaints are made.”