Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Research reveals many tenants in England don’t complain over fear of eviction

Quarter of a million households in the private rented sector in England put up with shoddy or unsafe homes and don’t complain as they fear eviction, new research suggests.
Overall some 28% of tenants who have experience problems do not complain and also fear that if they do their landlord might increase their rent, according to the report from Citizens Advice.
The research also found that repairs and maintenance is the most common issue that private tenants needed help for with more than 13,000 issues about problems such as mould, electrical faults and pest infestation dealt with by advisers last year.
The national charity is calling on the Government to use the planned introduction of an ombudsman for private landlords to further protect tenants from what it calls ‘revenge eviction’.
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 33% of people gave up, 13% paid out of their own pocket and 7% relocated.
The report says that tenants who rent privately face a complicated path for redress against their landlord when they have a problem with their home. Some 48% did not think their landlord or agent had a complaints process.
The vast majority, almost nine in 10 Citizens Advice staff interviewed for the research said people most often come for support after reporting the issue to their landlord or letting agent several times and 13% of tenants who experienced a problem didn’t complain because they were unable to contact their landlord or didn’t know how to.
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 and 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, the charity added.
‘People who rent shabby or unsafe homes have few options when landlords let them down. Resolving disputes can be risky, costly and complicated. Our research shows many of these tenants fear eviction or rent hikes if they make a complaint about a problem including repairs, letting agents fees or deposit returns,’ said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
‘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,’ she added.

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