The CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) have revealed there are over one million homes in England being privately rented that are not just sub-standard, they are actually dangerous.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has warned that these figures will without doubt increase due to a lack of social housing along with the severe cuts to legal aid and housing benefit. Councils across the UK say they are doing everything they can but think workable legislation is needed, while the coalition say that more red tape would only harm the interests of the tenant.
The CIEH also claim that a small number of unscrupulous landlords are exploiting the shortage of rented accommodation, and they are fearful that cuts to housing benefit are going to force tenants to move in to unsafe buildings with exposed electrics, mould and damp. They also make it clear that not every landlord is like this. The vast majority take out landlord insurance and look after their tenants very well.
Councillor Paul Bettison, Chairman of Local Government Regulation, said “There is clear evidence that councils throughout England are cracking down on rogue landlords.
“However, at a time when councils are facing the worst financial settlement in living memory, having clearer and more workable legislation would be beneficial. With the limited resources available to councils at present, the introduction of a national landlord register would certainly help councils further in tracing those breaking the law.”
A Communities and Local Government spokesperson claims coalition ministers believe the system will strike the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of both tenant and landlords. All local Councils have a range of powers to tackle the small number of rogue landlords who continually fail in their responsibilities. While there is not yet a central regulation system for landlords in England, Scotland does have landlord registration which is designed to help local councils monitor private landlords and make sure that they are suitable to let out property.
The Government have been warned by a specialist lettings agency that the impending cuts in Local Housing Allowance are going to cause havoc in the rental market, with many tenants suffering unnecessarily.
Steve Perrons, the managing director of a lettings agency that specialises in providing people on benefits with good housing, believes the Government are making a big mistake in reducing the level of allowance for people who are often desperate to find dependable accommodation. He warns that good landlords who run their businesses in a professional manner and have the basics, such as landlord insurance on all of their properties, will not take kindly to suggestions they reduce their rents because the Government want to cut allowances.
He said “The cuts amount to a punishment of respectable private landlords who let to benefit tenants at a time when the Government, which does not have the funds to provide enough social housing, needs their help more than ever. The Government is cutting off its nose to spite its face.
“The result of the cuts will be that many landlords keep rents at the same level and simply slap a “No DSS” label on their properties, leaving rogue landlords as the only option for many tenants. Consequently, many people on benefits will find themselves either homeless or living in sub-standard accommodation.”
Perrons was addressing members of the British Property Federation at their annual conference and warned the Government that a bad situation may well get worse for many dependant residents if they do not reconsider their decision. A recent poll suggested that 4 in 5 landlords would not be dropping rents to facilitate the Government plans. Local Councils across the UK are reported to have started making contingency plans for a situation where people are becoming homeless because their benefits will not cover their rent.
Landlords in York are up in arms about plans to impose yet more red tape around their businesses. York Council is considering proposals to make all private landlords apply for planning permission if they wish to change a property into a house of multiple occupation (HMO). Landlords in the area say the council are imposing draconian measures to deal with a problem that doesn’t exist.
The plan to introduce the measures stems from complaints by local residents who claim the increase in houses of multiple occupation and in particularly student lets, is now starting to damage the community. They say problems such as increased noise, difficulty finding a parking space near to their homes and the increase in rubbish has all coincided with the increase of students in the area.
Private landlords with landlord insurance have now joined together to raise a legal riposte to the proposals, and have so far managed to get over 500 signatures on a petition which they are going to use in the challenge. The petition claims that the council has sufficient powers already to tackle any problems caused by a tiny number of irresponsible landlords who are giving them all a bad name, and that there is no concrete evidence that houses of multiple occupations have a detrimental effect on the area. They also claim that the proposal will cause serious long term damage to the private rented sector and the economy of York. Most landlords feel they should not be punished for the few who are the root of the problem.
Niall McTurk, chairman of York Residential Landlords Association, stated “The association have instructed solicitors to start a legal challenge with the council. These “unfair” changes will not only affect students, but also people on benefits, who are going to find it even harder to get good rented accommodation. And of course they will harshly affect private landlords.”