Citizens Advice has called for more regulation of the private rented sector after research revealed that hundreds of thousands of tenants in England are living in hazardous homes with problems such as mould or faulty fire alarms.
The charity argues that “weak and confusing” rules are to blame for the fact that so many people are living in unsafe homes.
The study, conducted by ComRes on behalf of Citizens Advice, found that almost one in three tenants surveyed said their property did not have a carbon monoxide alarm despite requiring one, while three-fifths of tenants identified disrepair in their home during the last two years that was not caused by them and that their landlord was responsible for fixing.
Part of the problem is that many landlords do not understand their legal obligations and renters are unaware of their rights, according to the survey.
Citizens Advice is calling for the introduction of a rental watchdog to enforce a “home MOT” and to determine a “fit-and-proper-person” test for landlords.
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 do not.”
But the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has rejected calls by Citizens Advice for a national body to set standards in private rented housing.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “There are already well over 150 laws containing 400 regulations affecting the private rented sector. The powers are already there for councils to tackle and root out criminal landlords who cause misery for their tenants.
“What is lacking are both the will and the resources to properly use them.
“We fail to see how establishing a new body of this kind will help to address this.”