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.