Tenants ‘Too Scared to Report Rogue Landlords’

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Tenants ‘Too Scared to Report Rogue Landlords’ read the headline in the Manchester Evening News Advertiser. This was one of two adjoining articles which I felt were slightly contradictory.

One with the headline above reported that Manchester City Council received close to 2,000 complaints against private landlords in 2018. 2,000 were obviously not too scared to complain and seems a few too many to indicate that tenants sit cowering, unaware of their rights or the way complaints should be made. What is more concerning is that despite the complaints, no-one, yes, that’s right, NO-ONE, was prosecuted by the Council.

Some of the landlords who had complaints made against them, did not escape with impunity.   426 Housing Health and Safety Rating System inspections were carried out, which is the first step for further action being taken because a hazard within the property has been discovered.

There were 21 hazard awareness notices issued by the Council; this indicates that there is an issue in the property but that they will take no further action at present; landlords who have a hazard awareness notice should take steps to rectify the problem, but that there is no urgency to get this done.

More serious, and demanding more urgent attention, are improvement notices where a category 1 or 2 hazard is found. A category 1 hazard means the tenants health and well-being are at serious risk. Category 2 hazards, whilst an irritant to the tenant, are not as serious, but still require attention.

There were 77 improvement notices issued. Does this sound like a problem with rogue landlords? Of the 426 HHSRS inspections, a little over 20 per cent resulted in improvement notices; none of the improvement notices led to Court action. This would indicate that the landlords take the actions required to put their properties to the required standard.

That’s one article. What does the other say? If anything, this had even more startling results.  Greater Manchester, which encompasses Oldham, Bolton, Salford, Trafford, Rochdale, Stockport and Wigan (apologies if I’ve missed someone) reported that 51,000 tenants were not too scared to report their property complaints. Did they think it was worth the stress? Did they live happily from then on, having raised their issues with the Council? I doubt it. The complaints resulted in just two prosecutions.

Councils will argue that they do not have the funding to pursue rogue landlords. What about the additional legislation from April 2017, lauded at the time by the then Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell as measures that ‘will give councils the additional powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area’. It doesn’t seem so.

I am afraid I read articles like this with a great deal of scepticism. If commentators are able to make judgements like this, why are Councils not using the powers they have to bring landlords to book? 

May I posit as an opinion that of the 51,000 tenants who were not ‘too scared’ to make complaints, at least half are due to unrealistic expectations of the tenant. Some are complaints which have not been reported to the landlord.  

Whilst I am as keen as anyone to make sure that those landlords that bring shame on the sector are punished, don’t be misled by alarming figures. Yes, there are landlord’s who need training; yes, there are landlords that neglect properties for an easy life, but 51,000? Only a fraction will merit the epithet ‘Rogue’.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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