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More private renters struggling with horror homes

26 November 2014

More people are struggling with private rented homes which are damp, dangerous and in need of significant repair, reveals Citizens Advice.

The national charity helped people with 14 per cent more repairs and maintenance problems between July and September this year than in the same period in 2013.

Difficulties getting repairs and maintenance is the most common problem with private rented homes reported to Citizens Advice. In the past 12 months the charity helped people with almost 17,000 of these issues.

In one case a couple with two young children were living in a rented home which had severe damp problems, causing mould all over walls and in cupboards. Their private landlord repeatedly refused to treat the damp, but after the family contacted environmental health he agreed to pay for some anti-mould paint. Not long after this he evicted them.

In its Advice Trends report published today Citizens Advice highlights that one in three private rented properties in England does not meet the Government’s decent home minimum standard. Yet renters in England have very few rights and find it hard to hold landlords to account over poor conditions, for fear of eviction. Citizens Advice helped with 20 per cent more issues where people are facing eviction despite being up to date with rent.

The new Advice Trends report highlights a range of problems private renters are increasingly turning to Citizens Advice for help with. Between July to September 2013 and the same period this year Citizens Advice helped with:

  • A seven per cent rise in the number of issues around paying rent up front.
  • Seven per cent more issues where people struggle to get their deposit back.
  • A 15 per cent increase in the number of issues where people are harassed or illegally evicted by landlords.

Further analysis of the figures shows that young people are more likely to have problems with private landlords compared with older renters. One in six people in their twenties receiving help from Citizens Advice has an issue with a privately rented home.

Citizens Advice wants protections for people renting from private landlords to be improved. On Friday 28 November the Tenancies Reform Bill will be debated in Parliament. If enacted the Private Members Bill would prevent such retaliatory evictions.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

"It’s hard to feel at home in the private rented sector. People can struggle to lead a normal life when their home is in a state of disrepair and they could be told to leave at any time. But many feel powerless to speak out.

"People face a huge number of different housing problems. But despite one in five now renting privately, the sector is subject to comparatively little regulation. Rogue landlords and letting agents are free to mistreat tenants and charge ever increasing rents. In other markets consumers have far more protection, such as the right to refunds or repairs, if the product or service the pay for is not up to scratch.

"Urgent action is needed to bring renters’ rights up to a decent 21st century standard. Putting an end to retaliatory evictions is a good place to start.  We hope that MPs support the Tenancies Reform Bill on Friday.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.