THE BLOG

Private Rental Market in Tatters for Both Tenant and Landlord

14/07/2015 12:28 BST | Updated 13/07/2016 10:59 BST

Should all landlords across the UK be subject to a government wide accreditation scheme in order to qualify for 'landlord' status and should tenants be registered?

With over 5 million properties privately rented in the UK as reported on Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords the programme brings to the viewers the real life issues faced by both landlords and tenants.

In the broadcast, a builder faces financial ruin as a tenant refuses to pay rent, a single mother and child are given 24 hours to find a new house and a couple discover their tenant was scamming students.

Only a few actions of landlords and tenants are seen as a criminal offence, however most problems with tenant versus landlord are seen as a civil case in the eyes of the law and come at a cost to either or both tenant and landlord.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Trends in the United Kingdom Housing Market, 2014 the number of people buying houses halved in 2009 with only a small recovery in 2013. With those who are unable to purchase homes, many are forced to rent through agencies and pay the fees applied to renting leaving very little to save for their own home. When tenants cannot afford the fees, some go through private rental where fees are not mostly charged apart from the request for a bond and deposit to cover the landlord for damages to the property and one months rent. However, what covers the tenant when the landlord does not make necessary repairs to the property? Thus leaving tenants in an unsafe environment, some cases damaging the tenant's health. Councils can step in to check the properties health and safety standards. Some cases tenants use this as a delay tactic to being asked to leave, some use it as a defence for withholding rent. During this time the landlord loses rent if it becomes evident the tenant is using delay tactics.

As most of us are aware, anyone that reads, listeners and watches the news, we have become all too familiar of cuts to council budgets and redundancies being made throughout which can result on knock on affect to services to public. Even the health and safety checks of properties, thus leaving the tenant fighting for a safe place to live. Time, stress and effort on the tenant taken from them leading a happy and fulfilling life. However the landlord's life can also become unbearable if the tenant does not pay rent.

With the lack of private rental properties, tenants are reluctant to complain about the property they are in in case they are kicked out and nowhere to go. The council housing waiting list is forever growing and houses are not built quick enough to meet demand, therefore increasing homelessness. If the tenant chooses to not complain to the council it leaves the council unaware of problems. There is no law stopping a private landlord kicking out a tenant with little or no notice.

The ONS state the financial crisis in 2008 had a significant effect on the housing market, with house prices falling in the UK as a whole around 15% from January 2008 to March 2009. In addition to this, the number of property sales in the UK almost halved from a peak of 1.67 million in 2006 to 0.86 million in 2009.

Should there now be a system similar to the CSA where if a father does not pay for a child, it comes out of his pay, if a tenant has absconded without paying rent, the system is set up to find the payment from the tenants pay or benefits. But what if the landlord was not providing a 'healthy' place to live initially?

Should there be a list made of rogue landlords and tenants? Investigate fault first.

If a tenant lives in a property and payment is required for using that property, would it be theft if the tenant leaves without paying? Therefore should it then become a criminal act? If so, police are then required to investigate. Straining the police sources even more when redundancies are being made to the force already, stretching the current personnel.

When a tenant leaves a property, who pays the bill of a clean-up in a private rental home? If a tenant leaves a property in a mess in a private rent, should they be liable for criminal damage to someone's property?

If a tenant has not paid and the no payment of rent reaches a very high figure, should the tenant be forced to leave? Allowing the landlord to rent their property to paying tenants?

Looking at it from the side of the tenant, what if the landlord was not complying with health and safety checks on the property, and if they are not, who can enforce that the landlord does? It would come down to the council, if they are made aware. Leaving the tenant in an unsafe environment, but they are scared to complain in case they are kicked out. There is no law stopping the landlord removing the tenant only the tenants right to privacy. It takes the landlord to complete a section 21 seeking possession notice. However, if the tenant 'ignores' the possession notice, the landlord is forced to seek the help from the courts.

If a tenant does not pay rent for 8 weeks the housing benefit the tenant is claiming, the landlord can ask for housing benefit to be paid to them - this is the case in Warwickshire. The landlord can serve the tenant with a rent arrears notice, if the tenant ignores this and the guarantor is fake / disappeared or un-contactable upon contact then the landlord is forced to pay court costs to take the tenant to court for rent arrears.

According to UK Government, private tenants have rights and responsibilities, how true in keeping are they in real life private renting situation? Live in a property undisturbed, but what if the tenant does not pay rent and the landlord has to write to them again and again with the risk of the tenant running from the property without paying.

If a tenant is unhappy with the landlord, what help is there out there for them? They can report them to the council, running the risk of being kicked out.

If a landlord uses a letting agency, they are not 100% protected from rent arrears. On Channel 5's 'Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords', landlord Margaret Wilson faces the agent that owes her £20,000 in a perfectly captured showdown.

So both landlord and tenant are not protected from each other if it goes wrong on either side. Time to have regulatory body and change in law making some actions of both landlord and tenant illegal.

For further reading:

LandlordAction

Gov.uk - Private renting