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Paying a high price for a faulty product?

23 December 2015

Low quality private rented sector housing affects a wide range of groups, including highly-paid professionals and many families with children. Over 500,000 households renting privately now have an annual income over £50,000. The rapid growth in this sector over the last decade, with no corresponding intervention to drive up standards, means it’s no longer just a rump of very low income households who are forced to live in poor quality privately rented accommodation.

Paying a high price for a faulty product? [ 0.75 mb] research shows that 17% of privately rented homes in England contain a Category 1 hazard. These are problems that pose a serious threat to the health or safety to occupants’ safety such as exposed wiring, leaking roofs and even rat infestations. This equates to 700,000 households, who pay £4.2 billion of their own money in rent annually for the dubious privilege of living in these properties.

The law on the private rented sector is currently weak and enforcement is poor, skewing this market so that even well-off households are paying significantly higher than average rents for a service that poses a serious threat to their health and safety.

The Housing & Planning Bill 2015

That’s why we welcome the Government’s proposal, making its way through Parliament in the form of the Housing and Planning Bill, to enable tenants to seek a refund where their housing fails to meet lawful safety standards. We also want repairs to be better: a fifth of households in the private rented sector were dissatisfied with their landlord’s repairs to their home.

We think it is right that, as proposed in the Bill, tenants can seek a refund of up to a year's rent, where their landlord has taken no action to correct dangerous disrepair. This should bring down the number of renters who are dissatisfied with repairs in their home. The Bill could go further by making it easier for tenants not receiving Housing Benefit to seek a rent refund order for the time that Category 1 hazards in their home remain unrepaired.This would need amendments to the Bill to ensure tenants did not have to pay a fee to go to court and give their local authority a duty to support all tenants with this process.

And where landlords persist in providing unsafe housing, they should be stopped. We agree with the Government that landlords who persist in putting people's health - and sometimes lives - at risk, should be banned from doing so.