Yet another Citizens Advice campaign

Is there no end to the damage that the Citizen's Advice Bureau will do to the private sector, despite the valuable work it does in housing in the region of 9 million tenants who otherwise may be homeless, living in temporary accommodation or forced to live in over-crowded family homes. Sharon Betton, landlord advisor with the Bolton Bond Board and author of The Landlord Good Management and Practice Guide considers their latest report.

Yet another Citizens Advice campaign Residential Landlord
The newest campaign was reported in the Landlord & Buy-to-Let Magazine, under a heading ‘Renters rights stuck in the Dark Ages’. Surely an over-exaggeration, given the over one hundred pieces of legislation that a landlord is bound by.

They call now for private tenants to be refunded any rent they pay for a property that is ‘dangerously uninhabitable’. In a report named ‘Renting Uncovered’, they provide statistics which seem to indicate the scale of the problems they have identified with unfit properties. During 2014, private tenants went to the Citizens Advice with almost 17,000 issues around landlords not doing what is required of them – an increase of 5% on issues reported in 2013. One in three private rented homes do not meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard they said.

Among the outrageous claims made is that there is more protection afforded to someone leasing a car or buying a toaster. Outrageous because the man in the street would be unable to look at a car or a toaster and tell whether it is going to work well. A tenant need only use his eyes to see whether the property is fit for purpose. Are there landlords who are tardy in remedying property issues? Yes there are, but 17,000 seems a high number, considering we must assume these are tenancies that started when both the landlord and tenant were happy the property was of the desired standard.

Do the Citizen’s Advice Bureau investigate reports made, or do they accept what the tenant says and immediately involve the local authorities in further action? Is any credence given to the idea that tenants have a responsibility to be more discriminating in the properties they choose? Or that often repairs are made worse by tenants delaying reports or deliberately doing damage themselves, in the hope of being offered a different property?

This campaign, following so soon on the heels of the Deregulation Bill calling to ban the so-called retaliatory eviction shows again that the heavy guns are out to create as much damage as possible to private sector landlords, without a clear knowledge of the value of private sector, or of the tenants the Citizens Advice purport to assist.

Where private landlords are at fault, they need to be encouraged and assisted to perform better, but Citizens Advice will not work with landlords in a mutually co-operative manner – they want only to castigate the landlord. How this can be good for tenants or prospective tenants is questionable. If prospective tenants fear the private sector, the situations outlined above will become more numerous. If tenants feel that they cannot discuss repair issues with landlords, because they expect them to be ignored, they will not be empowered and feel able to have a full understanding of what is or is not acceptable in repair times.

Landlords need to have clear repair complaint procedures – and act on them. Do regular property inspections, to see yourself whether repairs are needed. More work for the landlord, but worth it to show the good property standards you provide for often the most vulnerable in society.

For advice on buy to let – Ask Sharon