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Government failing to protect private renters, says watchdog

A report by the National Audit Office claims that the way private renting is regulated makes the sector unfair to renters.

It also criticises the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for failing to have a detailed plan to address the problems that renters face.

The NAO report, out this morning, says privately rented properties are less likely to comply with safety requirements than other types of housing, and are more likely to be classified as non-decent. 


An estimated 13 per cent of private rented homes - that’s some 589,000 properties - have at least one category 1 hazard, defined as a serious threat to health and safety. This compares with 10 per cent of owner-occupied homes and five per cent of social housing. 

In addition, an estimated 23 per cent of private rented homes are classified as non-decent.

The NAO also slams the DLUHC for its piecemeal approach when introducing legislative changes to protect tenants' rights. 

In recent years it has introduced changes such as a mandatory redress requirement for letting agency work, a ban on charging letting fees to tenants, and temporary restrictions on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, the NAO claims DLUHC does not yet have a strategy for what it wants the regulation of the sector to look like as a whole

A summary of the NAO’s report says: |DLUHC's approach is also limited by gaps in the data showing what problems are occurring and where. DLUHC has some insight into how the sector is working, such as on property conditions and tenants' finances, but it lacks data on key issues where regulatory action may be required. 

“These key issues include harassment, evictions, disrepair that is not being addressed, or on the costs to landlords of complying with obligations. 

“Without this data, DLUHC will also struggle to measure the impact of its interventions. DLUHC told the NAO that it wants to collect better data as part of the planned reforms, but it has not yet developed a plan to improve its data.”

The report is also fiercely critical of councils.

It claims that local authorities take different approaches to regulating the sector in their areas, including how they ensure landlords comply with legal obligations. For example, some authorities inspect almost none of their privately rented properties while others inspect a large proportion. 

There is also little evidence of local authorities making use of certain regulatory tools such as banning orders and penalty notices - only 10 landlords and letting agents having been banned by local authorities since new powers were introduced in 2016. 

“DLUHC has limited data on what tools and approaches are used by local authorities, and therefore cannot meaningfully analyse which are more effective at improving compliance and protecting tenants” says the report.

NAO adds that tenants face several barriers to enforcing their rights, suggesting there are limited redress options, and much reliance on tenants themselves having to assert their rights. 

“This means that tenants must negotiate with landlords directly or take action through the courts, which can be costly. This also relies on tenants having an awareness of their rights. Surveys estimate that 35 per cent of tenants say that a lack of knowledge of their rights made negotiating with their landlord difficult” claims the report. 

The report notes that there will be a government White Paper on rental reform next year.

“To support this process, the NAO recommends that DLUHC defines an overall vision and strategy for the regulation of private renting. It should review whether current dispute resolutions arrangements for private renters are appropriate and accessible for all tenants, and improve its understanding of the experiences among private renters to inform how support is targeted at those most in need.”

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, says: "The proportion of private renters living in properties that are unsafe or fail the standards for a decent home is concerning. The government relies on these tenants being able to enforce their own rights, but they face significant barriers to doing so.

"The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should improve the quality of its data and insight into the private rented sector, so that it can oversee the regulation of the sector more effectively. It should develop a clear strategy to meet its aim of providing a better deal for renters."

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    More absolute drivel from another department full of overpaid bureaucrats that our taxes pay for. Surely with all the problems in the country we can find better use for the money than this complete waste of time.

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    "The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should improve the quality of its data and insight into the private rented sector“

    The only statement in this story that is accurate

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    Was this report cobbled together at a “gathering”. Since social housing is exempt from many of the rules and regulations that apply to private housing, I cannot believe that this is an accurate report.


    What is social housing except from that the private sector isn't?

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    While I usually don't take anything that these types of organisations say seriously, in this case I have to say that I'm not surprised by their findings. Over the past 25 years I've lived in over 20 private rented properties, 5 social properties and worked in hundreds of both. The standard of maintenance in the private sector is generally well below par, and nowhere near the standard of social housing. Landlords need to recognise and accept the way the sector is going and professionalise themselves, otherwise it's going to be a tough old slog.

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    Max Boyne
    Who are you and why do you move virtually every year ?


    Probably a plant from Shelter, GR etc.

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    The NAO is making a political statement which is not their job. Where have they got these figures from? It reads as an instruction to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, also not their job. I smell Carrie the commie here and the govvernment, monstering landlords.

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    What about landlord protection. My house has been totally destroyed by the tenant, who has turned it into a slum. Every complaint and repair was promptly dealt with but she removed fire alarms, smokes in house, removed doors and rails from steps. She has numerous dogs and cats with excrement everywhere. The stench is so bad the builders we sent in for repairs refused to work there. Neighbours are terrified of her and now she wont let builders in at all for repairs. She wants a council house so has turned my house into a slum trying to claim it unlivable despite her not letting builders in for repairs. I will never rent out a house in the UK again, the laws are a joke, we are still awaiting a possession order after 8 months, 6 for Covid then another 2 now, whilst she carries on destroying it with no comeback, ripped off window sill, said "it fell off". Ripped up carpets etc. I am all for tenant protection and forcing slum landlords to do repairs but it has to work other way too with some landlord protection, this woman is not the victim here, I am!

    Theodor Cable

    Ask more from the boys and girls on this site.
    They will know everything.
    Good luck. Keep us up to date with your progress.
    I have had such tenants in my life, and in my view, they should never be allowed to rent any private housing ever.
    Leave these vermin to local authorities. And tell the authorities that she is filthy and show them photos too, once she has left.
    In my case, despite all the internal damages, the back garden was full of used baby nappies and literally thousand of used female sanitary protection!!!

    It beggars belief and I feel for you Julie, I really do.

  • Theodor Cable

    Evict her. IMMEDIATELY.
    If she has caused damage, you can get the court to priotise it.


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