Rogue private landlords are raking in an estimated £5.6bn from unsafe homes that fail to meet minimum legal standards, a new report shows today.
The damning study from Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) reveals that 740,000 private rental tenants in England are living in homes that pose a serious health hazard.
‘A Nation Of Renters‘ says some of the most dangerous properties have category 1 hazards including severe damp, rat infestations and even a risk of explosions. Data shows that many of these properties are occupied by 510,000 children and 180,000 include a person who is disabled.
Rogue landlords are also profiteering from the welfare system. The CAB says £1.3bn of Housing Benefit is spent on dangerous homes that are unfit to live in.
The report also shows:
- 16% of privately rented homes are physically unsafe – far higher than the 6% in the social rented market.
- 8% of privately rented homes have serious damp.
- 10% pose a risk of a dangerous fall, and
- 6% are excessively cold.
There are now more than one million families with children in England renting in the private rental sector, three-times greater than a decade ago. The CAB says many of these families are ‘woefully under-protected’ and have to navigate complicated legal jargon to bring rogue landlords to justice.
Legal action can be a long drawn out process, complicated and extremely expensive. According to the CAB, this is compounded by the fact that complaints first have to be made to local authorities, who often lack the ability to take swift and decisive action.
Private tenants living in dangerous homes with a category 1 hazard pay an average of £157 per week on rent. The CAB is calling for private tenants to be entitled to rent refunds where properties are not fit to live in.
They are also demanding the creation of a ‘National Landlord Register’, to help ensure that landlords are not breaking the law and cannot move to different areas to avoid legal action.
Councils should also be required to set up local licensing to tackle specific issues related to private rental markets, says the CAB. This, they say, would encourage landlords to provide higher quality housing, whilst also reassuring tenants so they know what they can expect from a good landlord.
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.”
CAB advisers assisted more than 80,000 people last year, suffering problems with a private rented home.
The charity has hailed the success of its recent campaign to end ‘retaliatory evictions’, which will be made illegal later this year. Retaliatory evictions are where landlords unfairly evict tenants who have raised concerns about their home.