Warning over unsafe properties for private renters

Research by Citizens Advice has revealed that weak regulation of private renting in England is leaving hundreds of thousands of tenants living in hazardous homes.

A survey of landlords and tenants found that many landlords don’t know or understand their legal obligations, while renters aren’t aware of their rights or don’t feel able to enforce them. This creates a situation where many tenants live in homes with health-affecting hazards such as mould or dangerous problems such as not working or missing smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

Citizens Advice is now calling for a national housing body for private renting to set standards, which could include creating a home ‘MOT’, setting a ‘fit-and-proper-person’ test for landlords and standardising rental contracts. In total, 75 per cent of landlords agree a single national housing body responsible for setting standards would make their job easier.

The Getting the house in order report found that 60 per cent of tenants identified disrepair in their home in the last two years that was not caused by them and that their landlord was responsible for fixing. One in six said the disrepair was a major threat to their health and safety.

Amongst other issues highlighted in the report, 32 per cent said their house did not have a carbon monoxide alarm despite requiring one, an issue which affects around 900,000 homes, while a quarter of landlords failed to make sure there’s a smoke alarm on each floor of all of their properties.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Too many private renters live in hazardous homes - often with dangerous 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 don’t.”