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Call for independent complaints body to be set up for private renting

Private renters aren’t pressing agents and landlords to carry out repairs to their home over fears they’ll be evicted, claims Citizens Advice - so the charity now wants an independent complaints body to preside over the issue. 

A new report from the consumer charity finds more than two in five private renters - the equivalent of 1.85 million households, it claims - have waited longer than they usually should for a repair in the last four years.

In the last year Citizens Advice says it has helped people with more than 16,000 problems around private rented sector homes in poor condition.

Landlords or their agent representatives in the private rented sector have a legal responsibility to fix problems in a reasonable time - usually a month or less, or 24 hours for the most serious cases. When renters wait longer than is deemed reasonable a court can order a landlord or agent to carry out a repair, or award financial compensation. 

But the charity claims its latest research finds that some renters are holding back on complaining because, they say, they fear eviction.

The charity’s YouGov survey of over 700 private renters in England finds:

some 57 per cent who could get compensation said they didn’t want to force the issue for fear of being evicted;

51 per cent said another concern was that their landlord would increase their rent if they continued complaining;

only one per cent of people who could claim compensation took their case to court.

Citizens Advice says many renters take matters into their own hands with 30 per cent carrying out repairs themselves and 14 per cent paying for repairs out of their own pocket.

One family who asked Citizens Advice for help had spent £10,000 of their own money fixing a range of issues in their home, including a broken heating system, after repeated complaints to their landlord failed.

Citizens Advice now wants better protection against retaliatory evictions by rolling out independent complaints bodies across the private rented sector. 

Apparently only 0.005 per cent of private rented homes are covered by an independent scheme so Citizens Advice wants the government to make membership compulsory, and renters to be guaranteed protection from losing their home while their case is looked at.

“Rent is the most expensive costs households face, but protections for renters simply don’t reflect this. The new government needs to make it easier for people to have their rights enforced when their home is in poor condition. The redress process also needs to give renters protection from retaliatory action, so they feel confident reporting a problem in their home and don’t feel like their only option is to dip into their own pocket” claims the charity’s chief executive, Gillian Guy.

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    About 6 months ago I was allowed to ask Gavin Barwell one question only, which was didn't he see that putting the squeeze on the PRS would reduce supply so increase rents? He said his aim was to get rid of rogue PRS landlords and make available plenty of high grade rental property on new estates, run by good landlords such as local councils. To my mind rogue landlords would be hugely reduced by requiring ALL PRS lettings to be via licensed and regulated landlords (most easily done by requiring all landlords to use a suitable agent but otherwise they could, in theory, train up and become licensed themselves. Is my solution too simple? The PRS needs to be regulated.

  • Deborah Woolford

    That will be the Councils that allowed a cheaper material to be used to clad a building then !!! I think we should be extremely careful when insinuating that a PRS landlord is a rogue one - glass houses and stones such like !!! The other points to consider here are that the local councils are not sufficiently staffed to deal with this - what do our European counter parts do with the rental sector .Maybe we should look at their business model for local authority housing.

  • Alistair Oswin

    I totally agree with Michael regarding the industry being regulated. I also agree with the licensing scheme. Day after day i am encountering Landlords who have NO IDEA about the current legislation, quite happy collecting their rent without the basic health and safety regulations being in place. With regard to repairs - any agent worth his monthly commission would carry out regular inspections on all their properties and ask the tenant if there were any issues or repairs that required attention. The article above makes no mention of the Deregulation Act 2015?

  • Mark Wilson

    Why is every article on housing so totally self serving? The one family who spent £10,000 on repairs for example sounds like absolute nonsense. From my experience Tenants are not shy coming forward asking for repairs. With 73% of all statistics being made up they should be ignored. For example, I gather the justification for TDS was based on some very dubious data. Now that was a huge waste of time for RICS regulated firms such as ours

  • jeremy clarke

    I suspect that zero happy and satisfied tenants bother queuing up to report to cab or shelter which makes any statistics mere fiction as usual! Ho hum carry on regardless gov now only hear what they want to hear and certainly do not listen to those of us working on the coal face everyday.

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