Private renters 'put up with shoddy homes out of fear of revenge evictions'
More than a quarter (28%) of private tenants in England who have had problems while renting did not complain for fear of "revenge evictions", Citizens Advice has found.
And based on their experiences of helping private renters, more than two-fifths (43%) of Citizens Advice staff said worrying about the consequences of complaining was the biggest issue for tenants seeking redress for their problem.
Citizens Advice said its findings equate to a quarter of a million households in England putting up with shoddy or unsafe homes out of fear of eviction.
The charity said the most common issue that private tenants need its help with is repairs and maintenance.
It said more than 13,000 issues about problems such as mould, electrical faults and pest infestation were dealt with by advisers in person, over the phone, by email and via webchat last year.
The national charity is calling on the Government to use a planned introduction of an ombudsman for private landlords to further protect tenants from revenge eviction.
Last year Citizens Advice recommended all private landlords be required to join a dispute resolution scheme.
It said that while some landlords set out clear processes and timescales for complaints, others rely on informal methods such as texts or face-to-face chats.
The charity's research found nearly half (48%) of renters did not think their landlord or agent had a complaints process.
Around one in seven (13%) tenants who experienced a problem said they did not complain because they were unable to contact their landlord or did not know how to.
The charity says any redress scheme for private renters should be simple to use, with a single, recognisable way through which tenants can register complaints.
It should have the enforcement powers to punish rogue landlords and mandatory membership so all renters are protected and landlords who "let-and-forget" are included, Citizens Advice said.
Landlords who receive the most complaints should pay more towards the running of an ombudsman, keeping the costs low for the majority, the charity said.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "People who rent shabby or unsafe homes have few options when landlords let them down. Resolving disputes can be risky, costly and complicated."
The research included a survey of more than 2,000 private renters and a survey of over 320 Citizens Advice members of staff.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: "No one should live in fear of being evicted or having their rent increased for raising issues about important repairs in their home, but this is simply not an accurate picture of how the vast majority of landlords would respond to such requests.
"This fear is a big concern because tenant safety should come above everything else.
"Laws to prevent so-called retaliatory evictions were introduced to tackle this issue in 2015, yet more than two years later we hear the same arguments surfacing again.
"A dispute resolution system might help some renters come forward about genuine issues, but it will more likely end up as another layer of cost and bureaucracy on the responsible compliant landlord that is unlikely to help those who really suffer at the hands of the rogues and criminals that blight our sector."