Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/658/11186
Private tenants are the poor relations in housing
ROGUE PRIVATE landlords continue to put tenants' health and safety at risk. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has said that around one million privately-let homes in England are dangerous. There are around three million privately-rented homes in England and the demand for these is likely to increase due to lack of social housing and cuts to housing benefit and legal aid.
Kevin Allen, Socialist Party, York - Chairperson, Scarborough Private Tenants Rights Group (www.scarptrg.btck.co.uk)
In a 2010 Shelter/CIEH survey it was found that 96% of environmental health officers working in housing enforcement in the private rented sector have encountered problems with damp and mould growth, 94% with excess cold, 91% with fire safety and 90% with electrical safety. Many tenants give up trying to make landlords carry out repairs they are legally responsible for and just move on.
Private tenants do not enjoy anywhere near the security that tenants in other European countries enjoy.
Assured shorthold tenancies were introduced in the 1988 Housing Act by the Tories. These insecure tenancies allow landlords to evict tenants after the first six months without having to give any grounds for eviction and with only two months' notice.
This situation leads to unscrupulous landlords evicting tenants when they try to exercise the rights to repairs and have health and safety issues addressed. Many countries around the world have laws against such retaliatory eviction but England and Wales do not.
Some landlords continue not to have essential health and safety checks carried out and do not have tenants' deposits protected in one of the three government approved schemes.
According to the housing charity Shelter, one in four landlords say that their tenants' deposits aren't protected and illegal evictions of tenants and their families still take place. For many landlords, renting homes is a purely speculative financial matter.
Landlord accreditation schemes across the country are voluntary and piecemeal. Letting agencies are not compelled to join professional bodies or approval schemes or become members of the voluntary Property Ombudsman Lettings Scheme.
Even the letting agencies' professional bodies are self-regulatory. Tenants' rights groups are few and far between and at present there is no national representative body.
Private tenants need greater legal rights to protect themselves and their families. There is an urgent need for greater regulation of private landlords, robust enforcement of existing laws and the introduction of more secure tenancies in the private rented sector.
In addition, the 300,000 or more long-term empty properties across England need to be urgently brought back into use along with a substantial social housing building programme.
In The Socialist 16 February 2011:
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