Tenants who are too scared to complain to their landlords
Tuesday 26th July 2011
In the wake of the Landlords from Hell TV investigation, Citizens Advice has compiled tips for private tenants whose homes are in need of repair.
The programme showed how some landlords are accommodating people in overcrowded, damp and dilapidated homes.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “Last year Citizens Advice bureaux helped with almost 500,000 housing problems, up 14% from the year before.
“Everyone should have the right to live in a safe and decent home, but we see a lot of private tenants who are too scared to complain about terrible conditions for fear of eviction.
“We want to make sure people have the right information about their legal rights and can get the advice they need in this complex area of law.”
The charity has released five tips which it believes can help tenants feel more secure in their home:
As a tenant, you have the right to have the structure of your home kept in good repair by your landlord. Heating and hot water systems must also be kept in working order. Details about repair responsibilities are usually set out in a written tenancy agreement.
If you are living in private rented property which is in an unsatisfactory condition, there may be several ways of getting repairs or improvements done. BUT you should always check your housing status before you complain about housing conditions, as your landlord may try to evict you if you ask for repairs to be carried out. If in doubt, get advice from an experienced adviser at your local housing aid centre, law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau (see www.adviceguide.org.uk).
The first step is usually to talk to your landlord. It may be worth trying to negotiate amicably with your landlord, even if they do not have a legal duty to carry out a repair. Put your request in writing and keep a copy.
If this doesn’t work, DON’T just stop paying your rent, You don’t have the right to withhold rent and you shouldn’t do this to try to force your landlord to do repairs. Your landlord could take legal action against you for rent arrears and you could lose your home.
If you think that the condition of the property is either affecting your health or causing a nuisance to others, you should complain to the Environmental Health Department of your local council. They should investigate and they have the power to order your landlord to do the necessary repairs. Local councils also have a duty to take action against a landlord if they consider that housing conditions are not acceptable for people to live in.
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