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A state of disrepair

7 March 2017

Housing is the largest outgoing most people will have in their lifetime. Despite this, private renters are severely underprotected. Moreover, a high price doesn’t mean high quality. Many tenants are left paying too much for a product that is not fit for purpose. In the government's drive to support just managing families, it is important to recognise that renting is central.

A state of disrepair

Recent government changes, while welcome, provide little immediate respite to renters. A state of disrepair [ 0.8 mb] shows that, while the sector is growing in size, improvements in quality, security and rights have lagged behind.

Renters often live in poor conditions

More than 7 in 10 renters have experienced health and safety issues during their current tenancy, from rodent infestations to doors that don’t lock. In 4 in 10 of these cases, the issues were present when the tenant moved in. A third of renters spend time or money fixing the issues, but too few are refunded, especially those on low incomes. 40% of renters have avoided asking for repairs because they are worried about their landlord’s reaction.

  • Publish guidance to landlords on the maximum acceptable timescales to complete repairs.

  • Make it a banning order offence when multiple tenants have received compensation for disrepair relating to the same landlord.

  • Amend the Civil Procedure Rules so Section 21 court hearings can be adjourned where the tenant’s defence is disrepair, but Environmental Health has not yet inspected the property.

Renters lack even medium-term security

9 in 10 renters are offered initial tenancy contracts of 12 months or less, including 2 in 5 with a contract of 6 months or less. A third want a longer tenancy, even without the option of a break clause, rising to 2 in 5 of those with children. 3 in 5 parents find it hard to plan for the future because they know they may be asked to move at short notice.

  • Introduce 3 year family-friendly tenancies for all private rented sector tenants

  • Extend the notice period landlords are required to give for a no-fault eviction

Renters struggle with unfair costs and practices

Renters still lack some basic protections. Fees have risen far faster than inflation (60% in 5 years), and differ wildly between agencies. 1 in 20 renters have lost money due to letting agent bankruptcy or fraud. Almost 11,000 tenants have come to Citizens Advice about problems with tenancy deposit protection in the past year.

  • Enact a complete ban on any fees to tenants as soon as possible

  • Introduce mandatory client money protection

  • Develop non-court based routes to redress between tenants and landlords.