Sunday, January 21, 2018

Band-aid Housing

Millions of private renters face being stuck in dangerous homes for decades because of a large-scale failure of local councils to take action against landlords.  Almost 800,000 privately rented homes and 118,000 housing association properties in England contain the most serious type of safety hazards, including faulty boilers, dangerous wiring, vermin infestations and mould.

New data seen by The Independent shows local authorities took action in relation to just 1.1 per cent of the most dangerous rented homes in England last year. At the current rate, it would take almost 30 years for all the existing hazards to be addressed.

Almost three-quarters of councils (71 per cent) did not prosecute a single rogue landlord, while a third of all landlord prosecutions that did take place were in just two London boroughs. A fifth of local authorities said they did not issue a single improvement notice to landlords last year, while the average council issued just 13.

Experts said part of the problem was councils failing to employ properly trained staff to inspect properties, while cuts to environmental health department budgets were also highlighted. More than one in seven authorities admitted they were not using qualified environmental health officers to carry out inspections, suggesting people who are not fully trained in identifying and dealing with hazards are being tasked with investigating safety risks.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: “These figures are a stark illustration of how stacked the odds are against tenants who are forced to live in squalid conditions.

“There are three causes of this lack of enforcement: first, cuts to local environmental health teams mean that they can’t inspect the home of every tenant who complains. Second, when inspectors find hazards, they don’t take formal action against the landlord in every case, even though this would protect tenants from retaliatory eviction. Third, many tenants don’t want to complain in the first place because they’re worried that they’ll be evicted or face a punitive rent increase.

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