Quarter of a million households in England put up with shoddy or unsafe homes out of fear of eviction, Citizens Advice reveals
More than 1 in 4 (28%) private tenants who have experienced problems while renting do not complain for fear of being evicted, new figures from Citizens Advice show.
Research released in April reveal almost a quarter of a million households, who had issues and chose not to complain, said their main worry was their landlord raising their rent or ending the tenancy.
Based on their experiences advising private renters, more than 2 in 5 Citizens Advice staff (43%) said people “worrying about the consequences of complaining” was the biggest issue for tenants seeking redress for their problem.
Repairs and maintenance is the most common issue that private tenants needed help for from Citizens Advice.
More than 13,000 issues about problems such as mould, electrical faults and pest infestation were dealt with by advisers in person, over the phone, by email and via webchat last year.
Citizens Advice is calling on the Government to use the planned introduction of an ombudsman for private landlords to further protect tenants from “revenge eviction”.
A consultation into the plan – which also looked into naming and shaming rogue landlords – finished on the 16th April.
Last year Citizens Advice recommended all private landlords be required to join a dispute resolution scheme after it found 41% of tenants waited longer than is reasonable for repairs to be carried out.
As a result, one third (33%) of people gave up on asserting their right to repair, 13% paid out of their own pocket and 7% relocated.
The report, Redressing the Balance, says tenants who rent privately face a complicated path for redress against their landlord when they have a problem with their home.
It also reveals:
- Nearly half of renters (48%) did not think their landlord or agent had a complaints process.
- Almost 9 in 10 Citizens Advice staff interviewed said people most often come for support after reporting the issue to their landlord or letting agent several times.
- More than 1 in 7 (13%) tenants who experienced a problem didn’t complain because they were unable to contact their landlord or didn’t know how.
The charity says any redress scheme for private renters should be simple to use, with a single, recognisable portal through which tenants can register complaints.
It should have the enforcement powers to punish rogue landlords and mandatory membership so all renters are protected and landlords who “let-and-forget” are included.
Landlords who receive the most complaints should pay more towards the running of an ombudsman, keeping the costs low for the majority.
Nick White, Sustainable Tenancy Advisor from Citizens Advice South Hams says – “Tenants renting from private landlords face a difficult dilemma when faced with problems with the property; worrying about retaliatory action if they complain. Although tenants are now protected from unfair eviction when they raise a legitimate complaint, they are often unaware of this. It may also be hard for tenants to prove or have the resources to fight such action.
As a local charity we have spoken to tenants in the South Hams who would like to terminate a tenancy early due to disrepairs and severe damp, but are unable to do so without a severe penalty whilst the landlord drags their feet over making repairs. Perversely if complaints result in improvements, such as a new boiler or added insulation, tenants also worry that this might give landlords the green light to rent increases.
We welcome the government’s proposal to extend redress to all private renters, bringing it into line with other consumer markets. However, for any scheme to be successful it must be simple, free and ensure renters are protected from losing their homes simply for raising a complaint”
Advice and information is available from Citizens Advice –
Fill in the referral form at https://southhamscab.org.uk/brighterfutures/
Email Nick White on email@example.com
Drop in to your nearest Citizens Advice office, addresses can be found on www.southhamscab.org.uk