Tenants put up with shoddy or unsafe homes out of fear of eviction, says CAB

By agency reporter
April 17, 2018

More than one in four (28 per cent) private tenants who have experienced problems while renting do not complain for fear of being evicted, new figures from Citizens Advice show.

New research reveals almost a quarter of a million households, who had issues and chose not to complain, said their main worry was their landlord raising their rent or ending the tenancy.

Based on their experiences advising private renters, more than two in five Citizens Advice staff (43 per cent) said people “worrying about the consequences of complaining” was the biggest issue for tenants seeking redress for their problem.

Repairs and maintenance is the most common issue that private tenants needed help for from Citizens Advice.

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 the planned introduction of an ombudsman for private landlords to further protect tenants from 'revenge eviction'.

A consultation into the plan – which also looks into naming and shaming rogue landlords – finished on Monday 16 April 2018.

Last year Citizens Advice recommended all private landlords be required to join a dispute resolution scheme after it found 41 per cent of tenants waited longer than is reasonable for repairs to be carried out.

As a result, one third (33 per cent) of people gave up on asserting their right to repair, 13 per cent paid out of their own pocket and seven per cent relocated.

A new report, Redressing the Balance, says tenants who rent privately face a complicated path for redress against their landlord when they have a problem with their home.

It also reveals:

  • Nearly half of renters (48 per cent) did not think their landlord or agent had a complaints process.
  • Almost nine in 10 Citizens Advice staff interviewed said people most often come for support after reporting the issue to their landlord or letting agent several times.
  • More than one in seven (13 per cent) tenants who experienced a problem didn't complain because they were unable to contact their landlord or did not know how.

The charity says any redress scheme for private renters should be simple to use, with a single, recognisable portal 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.

Landlords who receive the most complaints should pay more towards the running of an ombudsman, keeping the costs low for the majority, the charity says.

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.

“Our research shows many of these tenants fear eviction or rent hikes if they make a complaint about a problem including repairs, letting agents fees or deposit returns.

“We welcome the government’s proposal to extend redress to all private renters, bringing it into line with other consumer markets.

“However, for any scheme to be successful it must be simple, free and ensure renters are protected from losing their homes simply for raising a complaint.”

* Read Redressing the Balance here

* Citizens Advice Bureaux https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

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