RENTERS across the UK are being left at the mercy of rogue landlords because councils aren’t using powers to protect them against revenge evictions, an investigation has found.
Freedom of Information requests to 100 councils from campaign group Generation Rent show how local authorities are unwilling or unable to take action against landlords who provide dangerously poor accommodation.
Councils found 13,000 potentially life-threatening hazards in Britain last year but only issued improvement notices in less than a fifth of cases.
This fell by almost a quarter from a year earlier, despite a change in the law that means issuing an order now protects tenants who complain from eviction. But only eight councils served as many improvement notices.
According to housing charity Shelter, more than 200,000 renters are evicted each year just for complaining about issues, which reach as far as animal infestations, faulty boilers and dangerous wiring that gives them electric shocks.
Citizens Advice says that more than a quarter are so afraid of being evicted that they don’t tell their landlord if there is a problem with the property they live in.
The problem is prominent that half of those chose to pay to get the issue resolved themselves.
Dan Wilson Craw of Generation Rent said: “Tenants currently only get security over their home when their landlord is breaking the law and their council takes sufficient action.
“This evidence shows that too much can go wrong in a council’s processes — from not responding to complaints to failing to issue formal notices — to reliably provide even this basic protection.”
The study found the 100 councils received 60,000 complaints from renters last year, but local inspectors only investigated 39,000 properties and issued just 2,366 improvement issues – down by nearly a quarter from 2016.
Section 21 of the Housing Act gives power to landlords to take back a property without needing to give a reason.
Martin Tett, of the Local Government Association, defended the actions of councils and said: “Councils take their responsibilities extremely seriously – these findings are hard to interpret because they are based on a snapshot of responses.
“Councils can help tenants to report poor conditions and avoid an unexplained eviction by issuing a formal enforcement notice but this is only one stage of a complex legal process that needs to be considered in the round.
“Local government faces a funding gap in excess of £5 billion by 2020. New duties imposed on councils must be adequately resourced and funded.”
Over 10 million people rent privately, with the majority of 30-year-olds in rented housing doubling over the past two decades as house prices have skyrocketed and prevented young people from climbing the property ladder.
More than 1.6 million families rely on the private rented sector – the average rent is £750, rising to £1,300 in London.