Fear of eviction forces tenants to put up with shoddy or unsafe homes
A quarter of a million private tenants in England who faced issues with their rental accommodation last year chose not to complain, fearing their landlord would raise their rent or end their tenancy.
More than two in five Citizens Advice staff (43%) said users worried about the consequences of complaining and this was the biggest issue for tenants seeking redress.
According to the charity, repairs and maintenance issues were commonly experienced by private tenants. More than 13,000 issues including mould, electrical faults and pest infestation were dealt with by advisers in person, over the phone, by email and via webchat last year.
But its research found that 41% of tenants waited longer than is reasonable for repairs to be carried out.
As a result, a third (33%) of people gave up on asserting their right to repair, 13% paid out of their own pocket and 7% relocated.
The charity also found that private tenants “face a complicated path” for redress against their landlord when they have a problem with their home:
- Nearly half of renters (48%) didn’t think their landlord or agent had a complaints process
- Almost nine 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 one in seven (13%) tenants who experienced a problem didn’t complain because they were unable to contact their landlord or didn’t know how.
As a result, 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”.
It wants to see a redress scheme for private renters which is simple to use, with a single, recognisable portal through which tenants can register complaints.
Further, it should have the enforcement powers to punish rogue landlords as well as a mandatory membership so all renters are protected and “let-and-forget” landlords are also 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 said.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “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.
“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.”