More than one in four tenants living in private rental accommodation in England who have had problems with their housing did not complain in case they were evicted. Citizens Advice found that 28% of tenants had not spoken out because they were fearful of ‘revenge evictions’. Citizens Advice staff also found that 43% worried about what the possible outcome could be if they did complain. This has meant that many tenants are suffering in silence rather than seeking help. These findings are the equivalent of 250,000 households in England who are putting up with properties which are in a poor state of repair, or even unsafe, because tenants are too afraid to speak out. The charity said the most common issues regarded maintenance and repairs to the property. The charity’s advisors have dealt with more than 13,000 calls or letters regarding problems like electrical faults, pest infestations and mould.
It is now calling upon the government to offer further protection for tenants against revenge evictions when, or if, it introduces a special ombudsman for private landlords. The charity has already called for all private landlords to be obliged to sign up for a dispute resolution scheme. While some landlords have clear processes for complaints and set timescales in which to deal with them, others rely on more informal methods. The research also showed that 48% of tenants did not believe their landlord or letting agent had a set complaints procedure. Also, around 13% of those who had a problem did not complain because they said they could not get in touch with their landlord or did not know how to contact him or her.
The charity said the redress scheme for tenants should be easy to use, with a clear way for tenants to make complaints. It should ensure that tenants are protected, with enforcement powers to take action against rogue landlords. It also believes membership should be mandatory. Another interesting idea is for landlords with the most complaints to pay more towards the upkeep of an ombudsman. This would help keep the costs down for the majority of landlords.
National Landlords Association chief executive officer, Richard Lambert, said no-one should be fearful of being evicted or finding their rent increased because they had pointed out problems in their homes. He said this was not how most landlords would respond to any requests. He said that this fear of speaking out is a major concern because the most important issue should be tenant safety. Laws were introduced to tackle so-called revenge evictions in 2015, but the issue is still arising. Mr Lambert felt a redress scheme could help tenants come forward with their concerns about issues. However, he felt it was more likely to be yet another cost and layer of responsibility on the shoulders of the professional and legitimate landlords. He felt such a scheme would be unlikely to help renters who are in the hands of rogue or illegal landlords.
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