A council claims that as many as a fifth of all the private rental sector homes in its area have a serious housing hazard, such as dangerous electrical or gas installations, inadequate or no fire precautions, or a lack of efficient heating.
The claim comes from Oxford councillor Alex Hollingsworth in response to local media reports that over 850 people made a complaint about their private rental properties in 2020.
The Oxford Mail used a Freedom of Information request to discover that 869 complaints were made to the council by private tenants last year.
Some 465 related to disrepair, poor conditions or because the tenants suspected their rented property was not licensed to be shared by multiple occupants.
Among the complaints there were 12 cases of harassment, one unannounced visit, 17 cases of ‘multiple issues’, 29 cases of rent increase, 184 threatened evictions and six unlawful evictions.
There were also 139 complaints related tenancy advice and 16 counter-claims.
Oxford council, which has 49 per cent of its housing stock in the private rental sector, geld a formal consultation on a new licensing regime in the autumn; before that, the Labour-led council said it aimed to have all private landlords to register with the city council.
In 2011 Oxford was the first council in England to introduce a city-wide scheme that required every HMO to be licensed.
In response to the figures for 2020 complaints, Councillor Hollingsworth says: “While most Oxford landlords act responsibly, we estimate that around a fifth of privately-rented homes in the city have a serious housing hazard, such as dangerous electrical or gas installations, inadequate or no fire precautions, or a lack of or inefficient heating.
“Currently, there is nothing stopping a landlord with criminal convictions from renting a property in Oxford, and we are reliant on tenants coming forward – and potentially risking eviction – to report unsafe conditions before we can take action. Even then, tenants often don’t know who their landlord is, so it’s extremely difficult for us to take action.
“Unfortunately, we think a number of the rogue landlords have been driven out of HMOs and into the wider private-rented sector. These landlords are exploiting Oxford residents and putting people’s lives at risk. We think a level playing field across the whole private-rented sector is the fairest way to deal with the problem, and keep residents safe.”