To begin, a caveat: Disrepair exists in private rented property, it is too prevalent and inexcusable.
Landlords and letting agents have a major role to play in being proactive and responsible about maintenance and repairs.
That notwithstanding, conditions across the board are generally good and every legitimate poll of renters points to consistently high levels of customer satisfaction.
The latest report published by Citizens Advice seeks to highlight bad practice and insecurity – some of which might be justified – but equally some of their broad statements lack a little context.
In summary they find three key areas where ‘renters struggle’. These are:
- Renters often live in poor conditions.
- Renters lack even medium-term security; and
- Renters struggle with unfair costs and practices.
These are pretty serious statements – each justified by statistics – but largely out of context and worthy of some debate.
For instance, poor conditions. According to the report 7 in 10 renters surveys had experienced health and safety issues during their tenancy. I believe this is probably true, but it is not unique to the PRS, or necessarily a fault of the managing landlord or agent. I own my own home, but could probably list half-a-dozen H&S issues I’ve faced at home in the last year from broken stair treads, to a faulty boiler (twice!) and countless trip hazards.
Not all issues are evidence of negligence or foul-play.
Security of tenure is a contentious topic at the best of times, but in this instance the statement is backed up by the finding that of the 9 in 10 initially offered a contract of 12 months or less, 1 in 3 would have liked longer. This is a significant proportion, but a minority none-the-less. Even when this is limited to those with children, the figure is only 2 in 5.
There can be little doubt that the PRS does not meet everyone’s needs or wants when it comes to tenancy length, but the majority seem content. Furthermore, the biggest barrier seems to be landlords, tenants and agents willingness to step outside of our respective comfort zones and negotiate the most appropriate tenancy for the circumstances. More work and discussion is certainly necessary, but the heavy criticism probably not.
When it comes to unfair costs, again there are some horrible examples and it is thanks to the minority that we are facing the bans that are currently in the works, but I can’t help but feel that the accusations of fraud (1 in 20 suggest they have been victim) may actually represent those who have failed to find any value in the service provided by landlords and agents.
Overall, the report is well-worth a read. There are some interesting points, but context is a must when calling for changes to the law which serve many living and working in the sector very well.