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MPs condemn rental conditions, councils and government

A senior committee of MPs claims that it’s “too difficult for renters to realise their legal right to a safe and secure home” and that local authorities and government fail to protect private tenants.

The all-party Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons says an estimated 13 per cent of the private rented sector stock poses “a serious threat to the health and safety of renters” which is costing the NHS an estimated £340m each year.

At the same time the PAC claims enforcement of the sector “is a postcode lottery …with 21 per cent of all privately rented homes in one region estimated to be severely unsafe”. 


The MPs say tenants face increasing rents, a rising number of low-earners and families renting long-term, and the prevalence of Section 21 evictions leaving households at risk of homelessness; and when trying to enforce their right to a safe and secure home private “renters face an inaccessible, arduous and resource-intensive court process and the risk of retaliatory eviction.” 

The committee goes on to claim that there is also evidence of unlawful discrimination in the sector, with 25 per cent of landlords unwilling to let to non-British passport holders and 52 per cent unwilling to let to tenants who receive Housing Benefit.

The MPs says the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has “only made piecemeal legislative changes in recent years, and in doing so has made the regulatory system even more overly complex and difficult to navigate for tenants, landlords and local authorities”; and is concerned that plans to address problems in the sector in a White Paper later in the year will be hampered by DLUHC’s poor understanding of the issues in the sector including overcrowding, harassment and evictions, and the actual effect of regulation. 

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says: “Unsafe conditions, overcrowding, harassment, discrimination and dodgy evictions are still a huge issue in the private rented sector.

“And yet the sector is a growing provider of homes and rents keep rising meaning that safe, suitable housing is too often out of reach for renters. Renters with a problem are faced with a complex and costly redress system which is not fit for purpose and many tenants give up at the first hurdle.

“We need to see a change in balance. We expect DLUHC to produce the promised White Paper in a timely and effective fashion, and start to turn around its record on addressing the desperate housing crisis in this country.”

Key recommendations of the report - in the MPs’ own words:

- It is too difficult for renters to realise their legal right to a safe and secure home. There are significant issues within the private rented sector, with some tenants exposed to serious illness, harassment or homelessness. An estimated 13% (589,000) of privately rented homes in England have at least one category 1 hazard - a serious threat to health and safety that landlords are legally obliged to address1. There is also evidence of discrimination with 25% of landlords unwilling to let to non-British passport holders and 52% unwilling to let to tenants who receive Housing Benefit 2. Many tenants feel unable to exercise their rights and raise complaints with local authorities due to fear of eviction. For those that do want to complain, their access to redress mechanisms is severely limited - the system is highly complex and requires significant time and resource to pursue court action. This will be particularly difficult for more vulnerable tenants who may lack awareness of their rights or how to enforce them. The Department is considering a mandatory redress scheme for landlords, but the way this is designed will determine how helpful it will be. For example, multiple redress schemes instead of a single ombudsman may create a market for landlords to choose from but be more confusing for renters. 

Recommendation: ….the Department should write to the Committee to set out how it will use its planned reform programme to better support renters to understand what their rights are; and improve renters’ ability to exercise their rights by learning from complaints and redress mechanisms used in other consumer markets. 


- Local authorities do not have the capacity and capability to ensure an appropriate level of protection for private renters.  Compliance with legal minimum standards is inconsistent across England, and the proportion of privately rented properties with category 1 hazards ranges from 9% in London to 21% in Yorkshire and the Humber. As reiterated by many of the stakeholders we received evidence from, most local authorities do not have the capacity to protect tenants and ensure landlords comply with regulations which has created a postcode lottery for tenants. For example, very few local authorities can afford to have tenancy relations officers who provide valuable support to tenants experiencing illegal eviction or harassment. The National Residential Landlords Association told us that a lack of resources and capacity also constrains local authorities’ use of enforcement powers with some taking a very light-touch approach. Only 10 landlords and letting agents have been banned by local authorities since 2016, and some councils inspect as little as 0.1% of their privately rented properties. The Department does not know what basic level of resource is needed for local authorities to regulate their rental markets. 

Recommendation: The Department should conduct a realistic assessment of the resources needed for local authorities to regulate effectively, with consideration given to the size, types and quality of private rented properties and the demographics of renters. The Department should write to us within the next six months with an update on the outcome of this assessment.   


- The Department is not doing enough to support local authorities to regulate effectively. The dozens of legislative powers used by local authorities are complex and spread across multiple enforcement bodies, creating a fragmented and disempowered regulatory system. Local authorities say that they could regulate better with more support and sharing of good practice, but the Department is not sufficiently proactive at providing this. The Department does not have a good enough understanding of what regulatory approaches work at local level to help local authorities ensure that landlords comply with their obligations. The Department also does not know what challenges local authorities are facing, and lacks an early warning system to identify where local regulation is failing private renters. The Department could learn lessons from other areas of consumer protection (such as Trading Standards services), where a national team provides intelligence and support to local regulators. 

Recommendation: The Department should take a more proactive approach to supporting local regulators and sharing good practice. To do so, it should learn from other consumer protection systems that provide central intelligence and support to local regulators.  


- Local Authorities are constrained by the Department’s approach to licensing landlords. In 2010, the Department introduced legislation allowing local authorities to require licences from landlords for more properties that the minimum requirements (the only properties that need licenses are larger houses in multiple occupation – those with at least five people from more than one household). However, these licence schemes are subject to Secretary of State approval if they cover over 20% of a council’s local area or rented housing stock. The Department told us that local authorities find selective licensing to be a useful tool for proactive enforcement action and intelligence gathering. However, to apply for a licensing scheme, local authorities need a good understanding of their local private rental market, which is hard to gather without already having a scheme in place. The time and resource needed to produce an application, and the requirement for schemes to last only five years, present further barriers to local authorities. The Department says it offers a dialogue with local authorities to help them apply for licensing schemes, but local authorities say there is poor communication and limited feedback. Given regulation is managed and delivered locally, it is not clear why the Department restricts the use of larger schemes or on what basis it rejects them. 

Recommendation: As part of its planned reforms, the Department should assess whether current arrangements for licensing schemes are working, and whether alternative arrangements may be more efficient and effective. 

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  • icon

    And who’s fault is this? MP’s . If they had controlled immigration and maintained a decent public sector for housing instead of selling them off cheap things would have been a lot better than they are today. We pay a lot of money for these people to rule over us and they clearly haven’t got a clue what they are doing. All they are good for is sitting round a table slagging the ruins they have caused off.


    Yes selling homes on the cheap and not replacing them & they cant replace them in cities where they have sold them as guess what their isnt any room net door to build them in any case, it was obvious the plan was to privatise housing as is the Torie way, good for some bad for the renter.


    Thatcher wanted to turn rent payers into mortgage payers as banks would be less sympathetic than councils over arrears.

    It was another way of reducing the likelihood of strikes when they were rampant.

    I approve of her motives but she sold the council houses much too cheaply and should have included a buy back option at the same % discount applicable against any future owner, which would have kept the future resale prices reasonable and allowed affordable reversal of a failed policy.


    Less than 8% of all council houses ever built have been sold into the private sector. The rest (the numbers always quoted in a deliberate attempt at misrepresentation) have gone to housing associations and non profit social landlords. The tenants have the same level of security of tenure, and for all intents and purposes, the same rights. Many of them don't even know the difference between their tenancy and a council tenancy.

    The need for social housing isn't a desireable problem within our society. We should be focusing more on reducing the demand rather than trying to increase supply. What's the ideal outcome here? A country full of people who depend on the Government to house, clothe and feed them?


    @ Robert Brown.

    There is a buy back option in the vast majority of cases, and it's at the council's / landlord's discretion. The system is set up to stonewall you if you try to sell to anyone other than the council / landlord, and they won't buy it back at market value (you have to use their valuer. You can appeal, but the appeal goes.... back to their valuer). Buying and selling within the decade at market value, is practically impossible.

    Don't believe even a tenth of what you read on this issue. councils & social landlords HATE Right to Buyers and will do everything in their power to screw them.

  • James B

    So tenants get a fat booklet stuffed in front of them with all their rights before they move in (how to rent guide) and have the council at the other end of the phone, yet they don’t know their rights? Nonsense

  •  G romit

    This is the start of the propaganda campaign to get the Renters Reform Bill support, for when it is introduced into Parliament in the coming months.
    Expect more Landlord bashing.

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    The government have made the ability to evict extremely difficult, introduced massive penalties for renting to someone who doesn't have or ceases to have the Right to Rent, frozen the LHA at way below market rent and then wonders why, when we have a queue of people applying for a vacant property, we may actually prefer to let to someone we think may not result in us facing a big fine or affordability issues.

    How many times are unsafe or overcrowded conditions caused without the landlords knowledge? A tenant who lets their cousin and 4 children come and stay with them for example. Something a homeowner could do without hesitation but in a rental property would be classed as overcrowding. How many tenants deliberately overcrowd in the hope it will get them closer to getting Social housing?

    Local authorities already have a wide range of powers. What they don't have is a supply of housing to offer to people who would be made homeless.

    The vast majority of landlords are decent human beings who want long-term sustainable tenancies. We want tenants who look after their homes and appropriately report any maintenance issues.

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    52% Won't rent to tenants on benefits, in my area that's much closer to 100%, with LHA set well below market rents how can we rent to tenants on benefits ? they cannot afford to pay the rent.


    My thoughts exactly. In one of my areas the housing benefit rate is now 30% below market!!

  • icon

    council collect million of pound FEE for property licence from landlord ,why this collected money spend on rented houses to repair them ,or this collected fee from landlord why not council give it to insurance building company if any problem come insurance company fix it at least half of the complaint is solved ,At present council makes law to collect money from landlord and employ officer to find a problem ,its waste of landlord money given to council as fee .no benefit given to landlord or to their property with that landlord fee.there are builder who willing to do that job,its creat jobs ,please move that red tape and give that amount to any builders team or creat one team paid by landlord .give this suggestion to all councillor to change law for good.

  • icon

    Another unjustified attack on private LL, generally private LL’s property is in better condition and better kept than Public Sector housing. Now I see a west London Borough paying £40m for 200 new one & two bed Flats, (one bed offered for £325 pm rental) so the one bed will be one third of market rent and 2 bed for one quarter if I can believe my eyes, good old tax payers of which private LL’s contribute £billions to the Revenue so now we have to complete against our own taxes we pay. I expect the usual criteria will apply least you contribute or nothing will enhance your entitlement, at the same time Council’s looking after Big Developers building a glut to take them off their hands.


    The point is social or council homes are not supposed to compete with the private sector, they are their to offer affordable homes to those not just out of work but the many on low paid jobs that do jobs for services we use, the PRS is in the game for a return so obviously are not looking to offer homes at the lowest price, many in social homes are in full time work, I admit the point system is unfair as it rewards those not working with more points and so on, the rents are not low they are affordable whereas the PRS rents are not affordable


    The high demand for PRS properties at current market rents shows that the market rents are affordable.

    The high demand for rental properties shows there aren't enough properties available but many enjoying low rents in social housing shouldn't be there at all and should be making them available for those in genuine need. This includes many left wing rabble rousers and council officers enjoying unwarranted tax payer funded subsidies.


    It's not.

    This is generally the only area where I don't back landlords 100%. I've lived in 6 council properties, my mum and sisters have lived in another 3. I've lived in over 20 private rented properties, and as a tradesman, worked in 100's of council properties, and thousands of private rented ones. Council and social housing properties are galaxies ahead (please don't respond with mainstream news links, there are always isolated exceptions) in terms of the general standards. To anyone who knows what their talking about and has experienced both sectors, it's not even up for debate.

    Councils are bureaucratic and led by people who like to further their status and career with other people's money. They are instructed by central Government who do the exact same but on a larger scale.

    The average landlord will do no more than comply with legislation to it's minimum requirements (which is why when EICR's became mandatory recently, many had to spend thousands on their wiring. Even though EICR's have been recommended for 30 years). They don't have other people's money to spend.

    The outcome is inevitable.

    None of this is a criticsm by the way, (though that's how I suspect it will be taken), merely my observation over the past 2 and a bit decades.

  • icon

    I tried taking my landlord to court for an illegal eviction and two insurance companies claiming for items thrown out, the process was a joke as I tried representing myself, the others had Barristers, everything I said was ignored, I knew I had lost before I even started as to a Judge Renter = bad Landlord = good yes you can appeal but you have just two weeks and they know a self litigator doesnt stand a chance


    The learned judge clearly didn't agree that the eviction was illegal.

    No landlord wants to evict good tenants. There is always a reason for any eviction but the process can be much too slow and complex.

    Did the landlord get costs awarded against you? I hope so!


    In my opinion. Unless you really know what you are doing it's a bad idea to represent yourself in court. Even for simple cases.

  • icon

    David, all my rents are affordable for working Tenants.
    I understand what you are saying about the legal system. I have said many times keep clear of the Courts it’s hugely expensive for both parties, better to try and resolve any problem directly with your LL, I am sure Court is the last place he wants to be.

  • icon

    Dave,that's true of all courts. But how is it you had an application against the landlord and the insurance companies at the same time ?


    Clearly everyone was wrong except Dave!

  • icon

    Max you are very fortunate to have lived in 6 subsidised properties. I always had to pay full whack without any help from the tax payers. I agree sometimes social housing is better kept if they are dressed up in clean clothes all the time as apposed to working clothes.

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    I had better properties for the two and half decades prior to the 2004 Housing Act. How did we manage before all those Regulation’s we took pride in our properties and to attract good Tenants. We now have to provide finance to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Regulators and Council staff in suits to play with their Computers and damage us.
    Computers is the worst thing to happen in my lifetime, if they didn’t have this Technology half the nonsense wouldn’t exist because it would involve them doing actual work no hope of them doing that.

  • icon

    Max, I agree with much of what you say which is true, the bit I am struggling with many Council houses were sold off to the occupier and the only restriction on them at that time was they wouldn’t sell it for 5 years and thousands did, so at that time the Council’s weren’t interested in buying them back or enforcing the buy back clause if indeed it existed at the time, you can’t buy it back from the guy that has already sold it.

  • icon

    Well as usual I’m rolling around on the floor laughing maniacally. Not because the result of all this will be funny for us, because these MPs are so unbelievably thick and delusional that they repeatedly, deliberately, fail to see how they are the creators, instigators and supporters of just about every single item touched upon! They deliberately and willingly introduced policies that could only raise rents and homelessness, then complain about the landlords when rents and homelessness go up!! They tell us we have to check immigration status on pain of fines, then complain when we avoid immigrants! They do all they can to prevent eviction of non-payers then wring their hands and despair at us when we won’t take benefits! It’s tax, tax, tax, and tax some more whilst blaming us for failures in NHS funding! And most hilariously of all, they introduced anti-revenge eviction legislation in the 2015 Deregulation Act (presumably in the way they wanted it written?!) only to now tell US it doesn’t work!! Well whose fault is THAT??? Any clues???


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