I have just seen Jon Snow’s Dispatches program on landlords from hell and I have to say that it makes very depressing watching.
- Tenants forced out of properties without due process because the landlord wants a rent increase,
- families with young children being moved into substandard and dangerous houses,
- illegal immigrants living in garden sheds.
Hats off to Jon Snow and Channel Four for making the program, we need more of this sort of thing to bring the problem kicking and screaming out into the daylight. However we all know what the answer is.
More houses need to be built. A lot more houses.
The program said that there was a shortage of around a million houses, the biggest housing crisis since the second world war, but house building is at an all time low.
With an increasing population (the article from the Smith Institute I reviewed last week estimated that the population is due to increase by 30% in the next 25 years) it is imperative that something be done and quickly, but whether it will or not is anyones guess. The writer of the Pickles letter rather thought that new housing was going to be reduced as a result of the housing benefit cuts.
Legislation can only do so much
Jon Snow’s program just shows the limitations of legislation. We have laws prohibiting ALL the problems the program found.
However if Local Authorities do not have the manpower or the funding to prosecute, then the criminal landlords are just going to laugh and carry on regardless.
Particularly if, even when there is a successful prosecution, the fines awarded are so pathetically low.
Tenants have the right to bring civil claims against their landlords for compensation, for example for breach of the repairing covenants and also for personal injury if the disrepair affects their health (as it did the daughter in one of the properties featured in the program).
However, if there is nowhere for them to go if they get evicted, and/or if their landlords are known to be violent, are tenants going to go to court to enforce their legal rights? What do you think?
If tenants are two a penny and housing is in short supply, will they risk getting a reputation as a ‘stroppy tenant’ by making complaints?
In his recent article on this blog recently, RLA Chairman Alan Ward suggested that we needed more educated tenants who would challenge landlords thus forcing them to raise their standards. But this won’t work if there is an oversupply of tenants and an undersupply of rented properties for them to live in.
There has been much criticism in the past of the landlords register suggested by Julie Rugg in her report a few years ago, but it would have helped local authorities keep track of landlords and assist in prosecutions.
The regulation of letting agents recommended in her report is also LONG over due.
Finally, landlords as a charity. I trust the Charities Commission are now going to investigate the charitable status of the firm mentioned in the program, the Meridian Foundation.
It might also be a good idea to check up on similar firms too. Charities get quite a few financial advantages and I am not happy at the prospect of this sort of landlord getting the benefit of them.