An alarming new report has suggested that rogue landlords in England are earning as much as £5.6bn per year by renting out properties which are unsafe and fail to meet legal standards.
The study from Citizens Advice has indicated that a shocking 740,000 households in England present a large threat to the health and wellbeing of their inhabitants. Causes of these problems arise from issues such as damp, faulty fittings and rat infestations.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that, ‘Rogue landlords are putting profits before safety.’
Their report, entitled, A Nation of Renters, suggests that of the 740,000 households affected by rogue landlords, 510,00 are children, while 180,000 homes include a disabled resident. Additionally, the report claims that £5.6bn is being generated through rent on properties that currently have category 1(the most severe) hazards. £1.3bn of this is said to come from housing benefit. 
Other main points to take from the report include the notion that 16% of homes in the privately rented sector are unsafe, compared to 6% in the socially rented market. Furthermore, the report suggests that 8% of privately rented properties have serious damp, while 6% are overly cold.
According to the report, private renters living in homes with a category 1 hazard fork out an average of £157 per week on rental payments.
Tackling the problem
Encouragingly, the Government has issued councils with new powers in order to combat landlords who do not comply with sufficient safety measures. Ms Guy commented that, ‘the Government has rightly said it wants to tackle the country’s housing crisis,’ and believes that, ‘it must make targeting dodgy landlords, giving tenants better rights and driving up standards a major part of that effort.’
Citizens Advice believes that over one million families are now raising children within privately rented homes in England. This number is said to be three times higher than just one decade ago. Also, the charity believes that private renters are currently not sufficiently protected, and that taking legal action against a landlord can turn into a drawn-out and expensive process.
Unsafe homes generating £5.6bn per year
As a result, Citizens Advice has recently launched their Settled and Safe campaign. As part of their report, the charity believes that:
*tenants should be entitled to full refunds where their properties are found to be dangerous or unsafe
*councils should implement a licensing scheme whereby specific issues in their local market are tackled
*a national landlord register should be launched, in order to stop rogue landlords from moving to different areas to avoid legal action
In the last year alone, more than 80,000 people asked Citizens Advice for their help regarding an issue with their private rented property. In addition, the charity has called for the immediate end to retaliatory evictions, where landlords unjustly evict tenants after they have made complaints about problems in their home.
Housing minister Brandon Lewis stated that, ‘no tenant should expect to live in unsafe housing which is why we have already introduced a range of powers for councils to tackle rogue landlords backed by £6.7 million of government funding.’ He continued by saying that, ‘tenants can also access our, ‘How to Rent’ guide and model tenancy agreement so tenants and landlords alike are clear of their rights and responsibilities.’
Concluding, Mr Lewis said that, ‘the majority of landlords provide decent well maintained homes and unnecessary and excessive regulation on the private rented sector would push up prices and restrict choice for tenants.’