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Charity claims half a million children living in unsafe private rented homes

Rogue landlords are raking in £5.6billion a year for unsafe homes that fail to meet legal standards, a report by Citizens Advice claims.

The study says that 740,000 households in England live in privately rented homes that present a severe threat to tenants' health.

The report, A Nation of Renters, says these properties have category 1 hazards – the most serious of problems. These can include a host of dangers, such as: severe damp, rat infestations and risk of explosions.


The charity says that latest available data shows these properties contain 510,000 children and 180,000 have a disabled person. It also says that landlords are receiving £5.6bn a year on rent for homes with category 1 hazards, which includes £1.3bn of housing benefit.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Rogue landlords are putting profits before safety. With a growing private rental sector, increasing numbers of people – including more than 500,000 children – are falling prey to landlords who fail to meet decent standards.

“The Government has rightly said it wants to tackle the country’s housing crisis – it must make targeting dodgy landlords, giving tenants better rights and driving up standards a major part of that effort."

Citizens Advice says private renters are woefully under-protected and have to navigate through numerous pieces of complex legislation to seek legal redress from landlords.

It says that taking court action against a landlord can be long, complicated and expensive. This is compounded by the fact many complaints have to be made to local authorities, which often do not have the capacity to act quickly.

Responding to the report, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said better enforcement is needed of laws and regulations to protect tenants in private rented housing.

Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that during the last Parliament, the budgets of local authority enforcement departments were cut by over 37% per head of population in England.
Recent research conducted by the Local Government Information Unit and Management Journal has also found that 54% of local authorities believe that they are in danger of being unable to fund their statutory services which include Environmental Health Services.

The RLA claimed that with landlord investment running at £50 billion a year, the standard of private rented housing has improved by 36% between 2006 and 2013.

Chairman of the RLA Alan Ward said: “No tenant should ever have to put up with unsafe housing, and those landlords that wilfully provide such accommodation have no place in the market.

“Today’s report highlights the growing need for better enforcement of the wide range of powers already available to local authorities. The hazards identified by CAB are already illegal and calls into question the use of housing benefit for unfit properties.

“With council enforcement departments under serious pressure we are calling on the Government to review the capacity and resources available so that we can crack down on the small minority of criminal landlords that are causing misery for their tenants.”

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  • Jon  Tarrey

    This will be difficult to spin in a positive way but I'm sure some people will try.

  • Rookie Landlord

    'Cause Citizens Advice don't have an agenda to push or anything, Jon. From personal experience, I don't believe these stats. They're massively exaggerating the actual situation for their own means. Pathetic.

  • Emma  Mitchell

    Obviously these stats make for pretty grim reading, but we have to remember that many more good landlords are operating than bad ones. Unfortunately, the sterling work most of the country's landlords do doesn't make for headline news.

    These results shouldn't be ignored - there clearly is a significant issue with rogue landlords - but they should be put in perspective.

  • Kenny Sahota

    "The RLA claimed that with landlord investment running at £50 billion a year, the standard of private rented housing has improved by 36% between 2006 and 2013."

    This is something that isn't mentioned enough. Programmes like the Panorama doc a few weeks ago don't help, focusing simply on bad/rogue landlords and the uninhabitable homes they run and not offering a balanced perspective.

    No-one's saying the PRS is perfect, but it's also nowhere near as bad as some people with vested interests like to make out. The above figures are worrying - although you'd have to examine each case on an individual basis to really get the full story. Also, they're certainly not representative of my experiences.

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    Shame we never see any reports in the media about tenants who trash their accommodation and cost landlords thousands in refurbs. Or tenants who would rather use their housing benefit to pay for Sky TV than for the rent. Or those who think the furniture is included in the rent and therefore they can take it with them at the end of the tenancy. And, of course there is the little-known fact that - contrary to popular believe - the majority of landlords are not millionaires but ordinary working people with mortgages. And that most of those £5.6bn does not go towards a yacht in Cannes but towards paying those mortgages. But why bother with the inconvenient truth? Greedy, evil landlords sounds so much better, doesn't it?

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Yep, and in many cases it's clearly true. Read the article and weep.

    If you can't provide decent accommodation, don't become a landlord. Simples.

    No-one is saying that every single landlord is a millionaire, but by landlords having a portfolio of properties they are denying younger people/Generation Rent/first-time buyers the chance to purchase. If they then have to pay over-the-odds to live in cramped hovels, you can see how resentment breeds.

    Clearly, many landlords are not providing high enough standards. Not all, some. Why won't you admit that? Why get so defensive? Are you really saying the CAB have made all this up? Are you honestly saying in all these cases it's the tenants' fault?

    Yes, there are bad tenants. That gets reported on plenty. Wasn't there even a programme about them a few years ago? You only need to look at all the benefit-bashing programmes on C4 and C5 to see how the scrounger myth is perpetuated. Not saying scroungers don't exist, but they certainly don't exist to the extent you believe.

    So, I'm prepared to say some tenants aren't angels, in some cases they act in a reprehensible manner, are you prepared to say the same about landlords? Or would you prefer to stay in your cosy little bubble where every single landlord is beyond reproach?

  • Richard White

    "So, I'm prepared to say some tenants aren't angels." That's awfully magnanimous of you, Jon.

    I do find it odd that almost everyone who comments on here admits that bad landlording exists, yet you, for reasons unknown, airbrush this out and complain that the prevailing sentiment is that landlords can do no wrong. This is clearly not the case.

    As for your comment regarding the scrounger 'myth'; having described it as a myth i.e. a fixed and false belief, you go on to admit that in fact it's not a myth. It's all terribly confusing.


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