More turn to Citizens Advice Bureaus for help with ‘problem landlords’

A “power imbalance” between landlords and tenants has led more households to seek external help to cope in the private rented sector, a Citizens Advice Bureau claims.

In the three months to September 2014, more than 100 people received advice from the Newcastle branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) about problems.

Issues included landlords not repairing leaking roofs, not replacing emergency lighting, the withholding of personal mail and refusals to return deposits.

Nationally, CABs helped people with 14% more repairs and maintenance problems between July and September this year than in the same period in 2013.

The organisation’s latest Advice Trends report lists difficulties getting repairs and maintenance as the most common problem reported, with the charity having helped in almost 17,000 of these issues over the past year.

The study also claims one in three private rented properties in England does not meet the Government’s decent home minimum standard, while renters have few rights and fear eviction. CABs helped with 20% more issues where people are facing eviction without arrears.

Currently, the CAB-backed Tenancies Reform Bill is going through parliament, with a House of Commons debate taking place last month and another set for January 23.

If it becomes law, the bill would prevent so-called ‘retaliatory evictions’, and has been supported by Newcastle MPs Chi Onwurah and Catherine McKinnell.

Shona Alexander, chief executive of Newcastle CAB, said:

“Many people are finding it tough dealing with their landlords in the private rented sector. We are seeing more private tenants coming to us for help.

“People are living in homes which are damp, in need of repair and in some cases dangerous. But they fear that if they ask their landlord to fix problems they may face eviction.

“The power imbalance between private landlords and tenants needs to change. It’s time for private renters’ rights to be brought up to a decent 21st century standard.”

However, the National Landlords Association (NLA), which promotes and protects landlords, argues bringing in new legislation is unnecessary.

Bruce Haagensen, NLA representative in the North East, said:

“Retaliatory eviction, if and where it does happen, is an unacceptable and completely unprofessional response. Tenants should be able to raise issues with their landlords without the fear of losing their home.

“However, the Tenancies Reform or ‘Revenge Evictions’ Bill is a response more to the fear of it happening than widespread experience and the NLA has always been concerned that there is not the weight of evidence to justify the need for additional legislation.

“Following last month’s events it would seem the majority of MPs share these reservations given that so few were present to vote for it.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  08 Dec 2014

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