Tenants live in “dangerous or precarious conditions”: National Audit Office

Tenants live in “dangerous or precarious conditions with limited ability to exercise their rights,” according to a report from the National Audit Office.

The government body found that a “worrying proportion” of the 4.4 million privately rented households in England live in poor conditions, in its survey entitled Regulation of Private Renting.

It indicates that the proportion of households in England living in the private rental sector has roughly doubled over the past 20 years, and its regulation is not “always fair to tenants”.

The watchdog called on the Department of Grading, Housing and Communities to produce “a clear vision” of how to overhaul this sector when it releases its white paper next year.

The organization adds that the current system is a patchwork, with different parts of the country adopting their own methods of regulating the sector, which can often cause tenants to fail.

He says, “There are differences in the extent to which landlords comply with the law in different regions, and tenants from certain demographic groups experience worse property conditions or treatment.

“The department is not proactive in helping local communities to regulate effectively. Additionally, he does not yet have a plan to address the significant data gaps that prevent him from identifying where the problems are occurring, which regulatory approaches work well at the local level, or the impact of regulation on people. vulnerable.

The NAO adds that between 2019-2020, there were around 29,000 cases where households found themselves or were at risk of becoming homeless as a result of an eviction that was not their fault.

He says, “Many local authorities face funding pressures, which can limit their ability to proactively check properties for non-compliance and therefore rely more on knowing their rights and reporting. problems by tenants.

On average, private tenants spend more of their income on housing (32%) than those living in their own home (18%) or in social housing (27%).

The watchdog adds that the sector is very complex and shaped by intersecting policy areas within government that affect the supply and demand for rented properties. This includes areas outside the department’s jurisdiction, such as energy efficiency standards, benefits and welfare, and court processes for tenant complaints.

The NAO adds, “The department is developing potential sector reforms and plans to publish a white paper.

“As part of this work, he will need a clear vision of what he is trying to accomplish and a comprehensive strategy on how to address the challenges raised in this report, working within central government. and local if necessary, if it wants to meet its overall objective of offering a better offer to tenants.

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