Category Archives: Housing Standards

Child sex abuser who applied for landlord license from jail among four Glasgow men banned from letting properties

govanhill

Four landlords including a convicted child sex offender from Govanhill have been banned from renting homes by Glasgow City Council.

Muhammed Anwar applied for renewal of his landlord registration while serving a six-year jail sentence for three child sex abuse offences. The application was refused by a council committee along with three other rogue landlords.

The other men: Akhtar Ali, Ashiq Mohammed and Shabnam Sattar were found to be no longer fit to be landlords by Glasgow city council’s licensing and regulatory committee due to issues with their properties.

Mr Ali’s ban arose from concerns about his property management following a fire at one of his properties in Glenapp Street which resulted in two people being taken to hospital.

Additional  inspections of properties on Prince Edward Street, Garturk Street and Hickman Street revealed that gas and electricity meters had been by-passed and the flats had no smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Ashiq Mohammed and Shabnam Sattar failed fit and proper persons tests. Both did not provide enhanced criminal record certificates, current building insurance policies, confirmation form tenants that they had received their information packs, gas safety and energy performance certificates.

A spokesman for Glasgow council said: “We are very pleased that the work of the Landlord Registration Unit has been endorsed by the Licensing Committee.

“Our team is determined to ensure that those people on the Landlord Register are fit to be landlords.

“Whenever there is evidence that a landlord is no longer a suitable person to rent out property or they fail to manage their property appropriately, we will always seek to take action against them.

“Govanhill has been an area of the city where particular problems with landlords have been identified. The additional powers available to us through Govanhill’s Enhanced Enforcement Area are helping us to improve housing standards in the area.”

Wider Problem

The most recent bans from the landlord register comes following the banning of nine rogue Glasgow landlords in November. One of men banned had been convicted of assault with intent to rape.

The latest crackdown on rogue landlords in Glasgow comes following a highly publicized BBC Scotland investigation in August last year into housing abuse in Govanhill. It is reported that housing conditions are so bad that in some cases newborn babies are living in flats without running water.

Banned landlords may face prosecution and a fine of up to £50,000 if they attempt to let a property in future.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Average of only one rogue landlord per council is prosecuted each year according to Parliament figures.

Eviction Notice

An average of only one rogue landlord per council is prosecuted each year according to Parliament figures.

Speaking in a debate about the Housing and Planning Bill, the Labour MP Karen Buck claimed that over the last eight years only 2,000 landlords have been prosecuted for housing disrepair across the whole of the UK. The low number of landlord prosecutions stands in sharp contrast with the estimated 700,000 privately rented properties which have a category one hazard which include faulty electrics, damp and broken boilers.

The figures were presented in a debate about standards in the Private Rented Sector in February. During the session, Ms Buck asked the Government’s Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, whether the low number of landlord prosecutions provided irrefutable evidence that local authorities lack the resources to investigate cases of housing disrepair.

Mr Lewis was also asked whether laws should be passed to allow tenants to take civil action against rogue landlords when their properties are unfit for human habitation. In response Mr Lewis claimed that the proposed Housing and Planning Bill would give councils extra resources to improve housing conditions. It was also stated that councils would be permitted to issue civil penalties against landlords of up to £30,000 and issue rent payment orders for up to 12 months’ rent.

Also participating in the debate was the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq who asserted that many of her constituents who rent privately have reported being the victim of revenge evictions. This comes despite the practice being made illegal for rental agreements signed since 1st October 2015.

Revenge evictions still a problem

Revenge or retaliatory eviction is where a landlord threatens to evict a tenant for requesting repairs or complaining about conditions in their home. It often this affects private tenants with assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreements since they are the easiest to evict. ASTs are currently the most common type of tenancy agreement in the UK and is usually the default contract type for private sector renters.

Despite the new revenge eviction laws, many private tenants are worried that if they complain too much they will be evicted. Furthermore, figures gathered by Radio 1 Newsbeat through Freedom of Information requests show that more than half of local councils across England have not used their new powers under the revenge eviction law. Tightening of council budgets is also claimed to be a further impediment to investigating housing complaints. The Housing Law Practitioners Association is also concerned that the way the law is designed is too complicated.

The extent of the housing crisis comes as data show that private sector rented housing is the most expensive and has the lowest standards of any housing type.  According to Parliament reports, private renters now spend an average of 49% of their income on rent despite nearly one-in-three privately rented houses failing to meet minimum government housing standards.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Nine out of Ten Private Renters In London Have Experienced Serious Problems While Renting

for_saleNine out of 10 of London’s private renters have experienced at least four serious problems during their tenancy, including electrical faults, incomplete repairs and lost deposits. The survey commissioned by the Green Party London Assembly Member Sian Berry, asked 1,530 Londoners about their experiences, with nearly 70% of respondents writing in to share their stories. 

The results corroborate previous reports conducted by the Housing Charity Shelter which in 2014 found 61% of renters had experienced damp, mould, a leaking roof or window, electrical hazards, animal infestation or a gas leak in the previous twelve months.

Private renters often tolerate poor conditions due to the fear of retaliatory (also known as revenge) eviction. Many renters for example fear possible rent increases if they move or do not wish to provide their landlord with a justification for increasing the rent. In high-demand areas, landlords are able to evict tenants without reason and with just two months’ notice.

The recent law banning of revenge evictions  for tenancies starting after 1st October 2015 was hoped to give renters additional protection from eviction. However, many tenants are unaware of their rights. Moreover, the current revenge eviction legislation heavily depends on the tenant to negotiate with their landlord about disrepair before informing the council.

Very often cases are not investigated by local authorities due to lack of council funds and resources.  A recent study conducted by London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon found that the ratio of environmental health inspections to number of private rented sector homes was as high as one in ten in Greenwich, but only one in 689 in Lewisham.

Figures gathered by Radio 1 Newsbeat through Freedom of Information requests show that more than half of local councils across England haven’t used their powers to investigate revenge evictions.

The magnitude of the problems facing the private rented sector were further corroborated by the Living Home Standard report produced by the housing charity Shelter. The report which asked 1,691 adults about their homes, assessed the affordability, neighbourhood, stability and living conditions of private renters.

It concluded affordability to be the biggest issue, saying people should “thrive” in homes, not just “get by”. It also found 24% of people were unable to save after paying their rent or mortgage each month. A further 23% would struggle if their rent or mortgage costs rose. 18% said they had to regularly cut back on food or heating to meet escalating housing costs, with 20% having to sacrifice social activities to meet the bills.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Nearly 30 per cent of Privately Rented Properties in Britain Fail to Meet Minimum government Housing Standards

poor housing renters alliance

Nearly thirty per cent of privately rented properties in the United Kingdom fail to meet the  British Government’s minimum property standards. Perhaps more alarmingly a research paper published last year by the House of Commons research department admitted that since 2006 there has effectively been no minimum property standards for private rented housing in England.

Although there are rules which govern the actions of private landlords in the UK which include repairing obligations, these are virtually impossible to police by local government housing officers. Currently the enforcement of housing standards in England and Wales is carried out using a risk-assessment based regulatory model which replaced the Housing Fitness Standard in 2006.

According to the British Parliament research report, the private rented sector has the worst standards of any rental property type. Twenty-nine per cent of privately rented properties would fail to meet minimum standards compared with fourteen per cent of social housing. Furthermore, the report states that since the abolition of the Housing Fitness Standard “there have effectively been no minimum property standards for rented housing in England.”

Since the 1980s proportion of the UK population who are homeowners has declined steeply as new house building has failed to keep pace with population increases.  At the same time,  Britain’s private rented property sector has been largely deregulated in a process begun under the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Prior to this UK local government authorities maintained large numbers of properties which were let to the public on long-term letting contracts.  The government’s holdings of this housing stock has been reduced greatly as many properties have sold to the public leaving the property rental sector increasingly dominated by private landlords.

The seriousness of the housing crisis in the UK is often the subject of debate in the British Parliament. In February the London MP Karen Buck claimed that nearly 750,000 properties in London have a category one hazard which includes excess cold, fire hazards, asbestos and carbon monoxide among other risks. Ms Buck also added that despite the severity of poor and dangerous housing standards in the British capital, only 250 landlords had been prosecuted for poor housing per year over the last eight years across the UK.

There have been several attempts to introduce minimum housing regulations in Parliament. In late 2015 Ms Buck proposed a “Fitness for Human Habitation Bill” to require that residential rented accommodation be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation. This proposal however failed to progress past the second reading stage and was dropped from Parliament’s schedule.

In addition to the effective lack of private rental housing standards, council authorities in the UK are also struggling to deal with complaints about poor housing. Last year in the House of Lords the Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Bakewell, revealed that in 2012-13 little over half of housing complaints resulted in a council inspection. Of the 62,818 complaints received over the time period, only 31,634 inspections were carried out. This resulted in only 1,645 improvement notices being served, 2.6% of the total number of complaints. The most common categories of hazards and faults identified in inspections were: damp and mould, excess cold, overcrowding, falling hazards and fire.

Besides having the lowest property standards, privately rented properties are the most expensive housing type in the UK. Private renters now spend an average of 47% of their income on rent compared with 23% of the income of people with a mortgage and 32% for those in the social rented sector. These findings come as 11 million people now rent privately in the UK, a figure which has almost doubled in the last decade and is set to increase to around 22 million by 2030.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Nearly One-in-Three Private Rented Houses Would Fail Government Minimum Housing Standards

Private rented houses worst property type

Nearly one-in-three privately rented properties would fail the Government’s minimum property standards for social housing according to the the 2014/15 English Housing Survey. Even more alarmingly, a House of Commons research report published last year admitted that there has effectively been no minimum property standards for private rented housing in England since 2006.

Although there are statutory provisions governing private landlords’ repairing and maintenance obligations, enforcement of standards in private rented housing in England and Wales is mainly carried out through the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This system is essentially a risk-assessment based regulatory model used by local authority environmental health officers. The House of Commons report states that: “since the introduction of the HHSRS in 2006, replacing the old Housing Fitness Standard, there have effectively been no minimum property standards for rented housing in England.”

Overall the private rental sector in England has worst standards of any rental property type. Twenty-nine per cent of privately rented properties would fail to meet minimum standards compared with fourteen per cent of social housing.

Despite the seriousness of the issue, several failed attempts have been made in Parliament to establish minimum housing criteria. Notably the MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck proposed a Private Members’ Bill which was adjourned on its second reading debate on 16th October 2015. The “Fitness for Human Habitation Bill” sought to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) to require that residential rented accommodation be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation,

In addition to the effective lack of private rental housing standards, local authorities are also struggling to deal with housing complaints. In 2016, the Liberal Democrat Peer, Baroness Bakewell revealed that in 2012-13, little over half of housing complaints resulted in a Local Authority inspection. Of the 62,818 complaints received over the time period, only 31,634 inspections were carried out. This resulted in only 1,645 improvement notices being served, 2.6% of the total number of complaints. The most common categories of hazards and faults identified in inspections were: damp and mould, excess cold, overcrowding, falling hazards and fire.

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Furthermore, despite having the lowest property standards, the private renting is also the most expensive housing type. Private renters now spend an average of 47% of their income on rent compared with 23% of the income of people with a mortgage and 32% of the income for those in the social rented sector.

These findings come as 11 million people now live in private rented accommodation in England, a figure which has almost doubled in the last decade and is set for further increases.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Renters in shared housing to gain from increased protection

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Around a million renters living in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) will soon benefit from extra protection from rogue landlords being planned by the government.

HMOs, familiar to many students and flat sharers, are defined as properties shared by more than one unrelated persons. Typically these may be groups of friends such as is common for student accommodation or by strangers.  Typically the house sharers will have their own bedrooms but will share communal areas such as bathrooms or kitchens.

Under the government’s proposals, tenants living in a HMO may soon benefit from:

  • minimum room size standards (6.52m2 for one person rooms and 10.32m2 for double rooms)
  • improved waste disposal facilities
  • tackling rogue landlords through the introduction of a fit and proper person test for HMO landlords

Most significant is the proposed extension of the HMO licensing regime to include small HMOs which are currently exempt from mandatory licensing.

To date only large HMOs (3 stories or more) require mandatory licensing. The government seeks to extend HMO licensing to all properties irrespective of size and will push all HMOs with five occupants or more from two different households into the mandatory HMO licensing regime (with the exception of purpose built flats).

Due to the higher risk of poor quality housing in HMOs complex licensing regimes exist which may vary significantly across the UK. The move to license all HMOs will also help reduce such  regional variation in licensing regimes and housing standards. These extra renter protections will enhance currently existing license checks for properties which currently include minimum building quality standards (gas/fire safety) and the payment of a license fee.

Currently landlords operating an unlicensed HMO which requires licensing are liable for criminal prosecution and may be subject to an unlimited fine. Under such circumstances tenants may apply for a Rent Repayment Order to receive  refund of up to 12 months’ rent on the property.

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High Letting Agent Fees Stopping Tenants Moving out of Sub-Standard Homes

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High agent fees are discouraging tenants living in unsatisfactory housing conditions from finding alternative accommodation according to the latest report on the Private Rented Sector.

The report published by the English Housing Survey covering April 2014 to March 2015 found that 69% of tenants living in poor quality homes are discouraged from moving out because of agent fees. In addition to complaints about fees, the report also found that private sector renters are less satisfied with their tenure than owner-occupiers and council housing tenants:  overall 65% of private renters reported being satisfied with their current tenure compared to 98% of owner occupiers and 82%  of social renters.

Important findings of the report include:

  • 40% of private rented sector households were charged agency fees in 2014-2015, up from 34% in 2009-2010.
  • 18% of private renters said that they felt some of the fees charged were hidden. 65% of private renters reported paying an administration fee
  • 33% paid a finders’ fee, 7% of tenants paid a non-returnable holding fee, 5% paid a returnable holding fee and 4% paid an ‘other fee.’
  • The number of private renters who lived in non-decent dwellings rose from 1.1 million households in 2006 to 1.2 million households in 2014.

Surprisingly, despite the entry into force of deposit protection legislation in 2007 as part of the 2004 Housing Act, the Housing Survey found that only sixty four per cent of renters with a Assured Shorthold Tenancy reported that their deposit had been protected despite penalties existing for non-compliance with deposit protection rules.

Under deposit protection legislation, landlords must place tenancy deposits in one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes within thirty days of receipt or face a penalty of between one to three times the deposit amount with the penalty value determined by the seriousness and intent of the landlord’s non-compliance deposit rules. In general greater penalties for failing to protect deposits are awarded against experienced landlords or against landlords who have attempted to avoid protecting deposits for financial gain.

Despite charging  for protecting deposits being against the spirit of the deposit protection legislation the Renters Alliance has encountered numerous examples of landlords and letting agents charging renters extra fees to protect their deposits. In one landlord’s forum for example, one landlord reported charging £120 for protecting tenants’ deposits recommending to other landlords that they call similar fees “Admin fees” rather than “deposit fees” for legal reasons.

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Private Rental Sector has Lowest Property Standards

Private rental sector has highest percentage of home unfit for human habitation

The private rental sector in England has the highest proportion of poor property standards of any tenure type according to a research  published in Parliament.  This finding follows the 2014/15 English Housing Survey which found that 29% of private rented properties would fail the Government’s decent homes standard for social housing, compared to 14% of social housing.

Despite numerous regulations in the private letting sector which govern repairs and maintenance requirements such as the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, a risk-assessment based regulatory model introduced in 2006, there are effectively no minimum property standards for rented housing in England.

The parliamentary report on the state of housing in England follows recent failed attempts to establish minimum housing criteria such as a Private Member’s Bill proposed by Karen Buck, the member of Parliament for Westminster North.

The proposed Fitness for Human Habitation Bill  sought to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation, was adjourned on its second reading debate on 16th October 2015.

 

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Majority of London renters forced to live in unacceptable conditions

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60% of renters in London live in unacceptable conditions according to a survey carried out by YouGov and the housing charity Shelter.

The survey of 739 private renters in London between 13th June and 22nd July 2015 found that  around 60%, equivalent to around 1.5 million Londoners, have experienced problems in the past year. According to the survey with vermin and damp commonly reported problems were found to be:

  • Damp or mould (39% of renters)
  • Poor insulation or excess cold (26%)
  • Animal infestations such as mice and cockroaches (25%)
  • Problems with a leaking roof or windows (18%).

In addition to poor disrepair, a significant fraction of renters had experienced unsafe conditions with 14% reporting electrical problems and 15% living in homes which are poorly secured. Most worrying were the 3% of renters who reported gas leaks. According to the English Housing Survey 2013/14, 16.5 per cent of private rented homes fail the Government’s minimum standard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

The poor state of rental housing stock in the capital stands in stark contrast the the cost of rented accommodation with the average London renter paying just under 60% of their income on rent.

The seriousness of the rental crisis in the capital and across the country as a whole has led renters rights groups to campaign for the introduction of greater council powers to address disrepair in the private rental sector.

Other proposed initiatives include the establishment of landlord licensing to better protect renters from rogue landlords and letting agents.  Landlord and property licencing is currently mandatory for large HMOs (homes in multiple occupation) although there are calls to extend this regime to all HMOs irrespective of size and to other private rented accommodation.

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Less than 3% of Housing Disrepair Complaints Enforced

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The lack of resources available to local authorities to deal with housing disrepair in the private letting sector was exposed yesterday in the House of Lords.

According to the Liberal Democrat Baroness Bakewell, housing complaints totaled 62,818 in 2012-13 which resulted in only 31,634 inspections by local authorities.  Astoundingly, only 1,645 improvement notices were served over the same period. The most common categories of hazards and faults identified in inspections were: damp and mould, excess cold, crowding and space, falling hazards and fire. The powerlessness of many renters is exacerbated by out-of-date legislation whereby  tenants can take action themselves only if their rent is less than £80 a year in London and £52 a year elsewhere.

These findings come as 11 million people now live in private rented accommodation in England, a figure which has almost doubled in the last decade and is set for further increases.

The Baroness claims that Parliamentary research indicated that  30% of private rented properties in England would fail the Government’s decent homes standard. This is almost double the 15% in the social rented sector. Also, despite having the lowest average property standards, the private rental sector is the most expensive housing option.  Private renters now spend an average of 47% of their income on rent compared with 23% of the income of people with a mortgage and 32% of the income for those in the social rented sector.

The Baroness’ comments were made during a committee reading of the Housing and Planning Bill which would establish a database of rogue landlords and letting agents and strengthen the enforcement of pre-existing legislation in the private rental sector among other measures.

 

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