Hundreds of thousands of tenants in England are living in hazardous homes with problems such mould or faulty fire alarms due to “weak and confusing” regulation, according to Citizens Advice.
The charity found that almost one in three tenants surveyed said their house did not have a carbon monoxide alarm despite requiring one. That equates to 900,000 homes across the UK.
Three-fifths of tenants identified disrepair in their home during the last two years that was not caused by them and that their landlord was responsible for fixing. One in six of those said the disrepair was a major threat to their health and safety.
Citizens Advice also polled landlords, finding widespread gaps in knowledge of their legal responsibilities to tenants.
A quarter of landlords failed to ensure that there was a smoke alarm on each floor of all of their properties.
Almost half (49 per cent) did not know they face a penalty of up to £5,000 for not checking smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order on the first day of the tenancy. The same proportion didn’t know the penalty for not carrying out a gas safety check.
“Too many private renters live in hazardous homes – often with potentially fatal flaws,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
“Weak and confusing regulation means landlords can struggle to understand their legal obligations, while tenants find it hard to get problems in their homes resolved.
It suggests creating a home “MOT”, setting a “fit-and-proper-person” test for landlords and standardising rental contracts.
The government has made reforms in the private rented sector in recent years, such as laws to ensure all rented homes are fit to be lived in, banning most tenant fees, and proposed the abolition of “no-fault” section 21 evictions.
But Citizens Advice claims that renters still lack the power they need to ensure standards are consistent, and landlords and tenants lack the knowledge they need for standards to be upheld.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It is truly alarming that so many private renters are living in homes which aren’t up to scratch and compromise their safety. A safe home is a basic standard that every renter has the right to expect.
“It’s critical that every landlord is aware of their responsibilities and stays in step with the new Fitness for Human Habitation Act, which sets out standards to keep renters safe.
“But if landlords don’t follow these rules, renters should be armed with the power to challenge their poor behaviour.
“That’s why the government’s planned ban on no-fault evictions must become law as quickly as possible, so that private renters can speak up about safety concerns without living in fear of a revenge eviction.”