There is a strong case now for a specialist housing court to give tenants better protectionby Clive Betts / May 11, 2018 / Leave a comment
This country faces a housing crisis and while the problems posed by a broken housing market are widely acknowledged, it can help to shine a light on specific challenges. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, of which I am Chair, has been focusing on some of the problems in the private rented sector.
The sector has doubled in size over the last 15 years. Although the vast majority of homes within it are of a decent standard, a significant minority can only be described as shockingly inadequate.
As part of our inquiry, we visited a London Borough to find out how they enforce standards. While there, we saw a garden shed configured to accommodate not one, but two households. We heard about 25 people being accommodated in a small three-bedroom house. People were living in a walk-in freezer. A family was living in a chipboard construction in a garden, with a fridge and a washing machine powered by a wire from the kitchen.
Through our online forum, we heard directly from tenants about the poor conditions they had suffered. One submission said:
“We live in a house full of mould and damp with four young children… We have… faulty electrics and water comes through the living room window when it rains… the whole family keeps getting ill from it.”
These are shocking and unacceptable conditions.
As we know, where landlords think there is a ready supply of tenants desperate for somewhere to live, a clear imbalance in power has been allowed to develop. Tenants are often unwilling to complain about the conditions in their homes for fear of retaliation, which often can take the form of eviction, rent rises and harassment.
Forty-four per cent of tenants said that a fear of eviction would stop them from negotiating with their landlord over disrepair, while 14 per cent felt they had been penalised for complaining. More than 200,000 reported having been abused, threatened or harassed by a landlord.
Incredibly, Shelter and Citizens Advice told us that they often reminded tenants about the risks of making complaints, and how they may end up facing eviction and making a homeless application in three months’ time. That there are problems in the private rented sector is widely-known but the extent of them is perhaps not fully understood.