Private renters in England living in hazardous homes ‘due to weak regulation’

Rental sector homes are being left in a hazardous state because “weak and confusing” regulation means many private landlords do not understand their legal obligations, according to Citizens Advice.

Private sector renters can also find it hard to get problems resolved, the charity said.

A survey of landlords and tenants in England suggests many tenants live in homes with health-affecting hazards such as mould or dangerous problems such as not working or missing smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

Nearly a third (32%) of tenants said their house did not have a carbon monoxide alarm despite requiring one.

Three-fifths (60%) identified disrepair in their home in the last two years that was not caused by them and that their landlord was responsible for fixing.

One in six (15%) said the disrepair was a major threat to their health and safety.

In its survey of landlords, Citizens Advice found a quarter (25%) of landlords failed to make sure there is a smoke alarm on each floor of all of their properties.

A similar proportion failed to carry out an annual gas safety check or make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms were working.

A third (31%) of landlords said they find it difficult to keep up with rules and regulations.

Just half (49%) did not know the potential penalty – a fine of up to £5,000 – for not checking smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order on the first day of the tenancy.

Citizens Advice wants a national housing body for private renting to set standards, which could include creating a home “MOT”, setting a “fit-and-proper-person” test for landlords and standardising rental contracts.

The charity helped nearly 60,000 people with issues related to private renting last year, with a quarter (24%) having issues getting repairs completed.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Too many private renters live in hazardous homes – often with potentially fatal flaws.

“Weak and confusing regulation means landlords can struggle to understand their legal obligations, while tenants find it hard to get problems in their homes resolved.

“The Government must establish a national housing body to ensure landlords let property that meet legal standards, and gives renters the support they need when they don’t.”

Over 2,100 renters and more than 1,000 landlords in the private sector across England were surveyed.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It is truly alarming that so many private renters are living in homes which aren’t up to scratch and compromise their safety. A safe home is a basic standard that every renter has the right to expect.

“It’s critical that every landlord is aware of their responsibilities and stays in step with the new Fitness for Human Habitation Act, which sets out standards to keep renters safe.

“But if landlords don’t follow these rules, renters should be armed with the power to challenge their poor behaviour.

“That’s why the Government’s planned ban on no-fault evictions must become law as quickly as possible, so that private renters can speak up about safety concerns without living in fear of a revenge eviction.”

Minister for housing and homelessness Heather Wheeler said: “This Government is committed to cracking down on the small minority of landlords who are not giving tenants safe and secure places to live.

“We have given councils strong powers to make sure that when a property contains potentially serious health and safety risks, landlords must take immediate action.”

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