Communities and Local Government CommitteeSupplementary written evidence submitted by Shelter

Q54 “What percentage of landlords would you estimate to be rogue landlords?”

1. Shelter has been campaigning for action to tackle the small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords who make people’s lives a misery.

2. The private rented sector has expanded rapidly and largely unchecked. Combined with the often criminal nature of rogues’ behaviour, it is impossible to place a figure on the number of rogue landlords that exist. Shelter believes that they are a small minority of all landlords, but that their actions have far reaching consequences that can devastate the lives of individuals and communities. And create havoc for local councils. The evidence that currently exists has been drawn largely from Shelter’s own investigative work, which attempts to unpack the impact of rogue landlords and consider ways that we can end their destructive activities.

3. In July 2012 Shelter contacted every local authority in England to build a picture of the scale of the problem and what is being done to tackle it. The total number of complaints made to local authorities increased by 27% in the last three years, with over 85,000 complaints made in total over the past year alone. It is important to recognise that:

The number of complaints from private sector tenants is rising, fast.

The complaints registered are of an extremely serious nature, the consequences of which can cause misery to tenants and surrounding residents.

A large number of complaints will go unreported or undocumented.

The low market power of private tenants often dissuades them from ever complaining in the first place.

4. The vast majority of these complaints (56,451) related to category I and category II hazards, which pose an “imminent risk to health for tenants”.1 These complaints can be related to serious damp, asbestos, poor and failing lighting, falling, and electrical hazards.

5. Furthermore, government figures tell us that more than one in three private rented homes are “non-decent”, this is compared to 22% of homes in owner-occupation and 16% of social rented homes. Although the percentage of non-decent homes in the PRS has decreased slightly over the last five years, it is still unacceptably high. Furthermore, the number of non-decent homes increased in 2011. Clearly there are a large number of landlords who are not taking adequate care of their properties.

6. In October 2012 Shelter launched a new phase of its Evict Rogue Landlords Campaign. Through this campaign Shelter has engaged with a wide range of local authorities. Fifty one local authorities have signed up to our statement of support, pledging to get tough on rogue landlords. Shelter has also had substantial contact with a further 25 local authorities (76 in total) who have been keen to share their existing action, or seek advice and input.

7. Most of these local authorities have told us about the serious problems that rogue landlords are causing in their local communities. These landlords will often willingly break the law, creating havoc and negatively impacting the wider residential areas that surround their properties. Evidence and insight gathered through these relationships has made it clear that the impact of rogue landlords affects entire communities, not just their victims.

8. Many tenants will not report rogue activity because they are scared of retaliatory eviction, or they fear that improved conditions will push up their rent to unaffordable levels. Detailed below is just one of the many personal stories Shelter has collected from people who have been affected by these concerns.


To cut a long story short I did a runner with my children away from their abusive father and had to find a home quick, I had to rent a private property out of desperation.

First they charged me a chunk of money to register with them then they took a month’s rent and then another month’s rent as a deposit and after I had signed the tenancy agreement they decided to tell me I couldn’t have the keys unless I gave them more money, when I asked why they said it was in case I ever lost my keys. I had no choice to give them everything I had as I needed a home for my kids.

The problem I have now is since the first few months of being here a big damp problem became apparent, I have reported it over and over but nothing gets done. I have black mould in almost all rooms but in the downstairs rooms its thick black and white fluffy mould, I think it is bad as we all have problems with regular bad chests and if I go to the council for help to get the landlord to sort this out I will be kicked out of my home and I can’t allow that to happen as I am broke and would end up living on the streets so the only option I have is to live with it.

Q81 “Kay, you said earlier that the private sector is today playing a role it was never expected to play. Does that role extend to providing housing for the homeless?” and Q82 “In principle, you do not see any objection to the private rented sector meeting the needs of the homeless”

1. Changes in the Localism Act 2011 give local authorities additional scope to place homeless households in private rented homes. This increases local authorities’ options for re-housing homeless households, and also provides an opportunity and need to build stronger links with the PRS and raise the general standards in the sector.

2. With a growing waiting list for social housing and increased use of temporary accommodation, some local authorities are understandably looking towards the PRS to re-house homeless households by making them a single offer of a PRS tenancy, rather than allowing them to wait for a social home to become available.2

3. However, Shelter opposed the changes allowing local authorities to discharge their duty to homeless households into the PRS, because it removes the opportunity for homeless people to decide whether to accept an offer of a short-term private tenancy or wait for a social rented home. And there are serious concerns associated with housing the most vulnerable in this typically unstable and unsuitable accommodation.

4. Furthermore, the new powers will be constrained by the DWP-led welfare reform, which is likely to increase homelessness and further reduce the availability of genuinely affordable private housing by making it difficult for local authorities to find affordable homes in their area. This has been clearly evidenced by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s survey findings in Hackney.3 Changes include, the £500 per week benefit cap, the breaking of the link between Local Housing Allowance and rents, the extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate to 35, and the new under-occupancy restrictions.

5. In order to avoid the necessity of using PRS offers local authorities should ensure sufficient measures are in place to prevent homelessness in the first place. The Homelessness Act 2002 requires local authorities to strategically prevent homelessness, to ensure sufficient accommodation is and will be available for people in the district who may become homeless, and to secure satisfactory provision of support (advice, information and assistance) for homeless people.

6. The National Planning Policy Framework requires local authorities to use their local evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for affordable housing in the housing market area. Local authorities should therefore where possible ensure an adequate supply of homes that are affordable and accessible to Housing Benefit claimants.

7. However, we do recognise that there can be no one-size-fits-all guidelines; each local authority has different pressures and resources, and each household has different needs. Recent figures show a 184% increase from September 2011 to September 2012 of families living in bed and breakfast accommodation over the DCLG’s six week limit. This is particularly true in areas of high housing pressure, such as London which saw a 216% increase over the same time period. This is indicative of the severe pressures already placed on local authorities.

8. Therefore if these local authorities decide they have no choice but to use the new powers, it will be important they do so appropriately and develop clear policies around its use (as is required by the Guidance)4 to ensure people are only offered homes that are stable, suitable, local and affordable:

9. Stable: Currently, the PRS does not provide the stability many households need. Government data shows that the loss of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) is now the biggest single cause of homelessness. To prevent homeless households presenting as homeless year after year as they move from one unstable PRS property to another, we suggest that local authorities offer at least two year tenancies in the PRS or that the presumption of renewal for a further twelve months is written into any one year tenancies offered. In addition, they should give those placed in the PRS priority for social housing—equivalent to “reasonable preference”—for five years following their homeless acceptance, and offer tenancy start‐up support.

10. Suitable: In addition to the Regulations and Guidance5 which set out the circumstances in which accommodation offered is suitable, Shelter also recommends that adequate smoke alarms and adequate electrical appliances should be installed. There should be a timeframe for review and confirmation of electrical, fire and carbon monoxide safety standards in the same way that there is for gas safety.

11. In addition, the local authorities’ PRS offer policy should indicate whether hostel-type HMO accommodation would be considered suitable for discharge of duty. Often, this sort of accommodation has no or inadequate facilities for food storage, preparation and cooking . The Authority should also consider the other occupants of the HMO, eg, a vulnerable young woman should not be placed in an all-male HMO.

12. Only accredited landlords should be considered as fit and proper for purposes of discharge of the statutory duty. At the very least, we suggest local authorities ask the local police authority to run checks for violent/sexual offences or fraud, and checking with the Environmental Health team for landlord-tenant offences, and all landlords offering PRSO accommodation should use a model tenancy agreement.

13. Local: The Housing Act 1996 requires that, in so far as reasonably practical, local authorities must secure accommodation within their own district. Where out-of-district accommodation is offered, local authorities must notify the “receiving authority” within 14 days of the accommodation being made available. We support the Regulations and Guidance which require that, where accommodation is out of the district, the distance from the district must be considered as well as the significance of any disruption to employment, caring responsibilities or education, and the proximity and accessibility of medical facilities and other support, local services, amenities and transport.

14. Affordable: An important factor in finding a home is being able to afford it without the worry of falling into debt, arrears and repossession, and without feeling trapped by benefit dependency—all of which can impose costs on the taxpayer. With the cost of rent increasing rapidly in many areas, and introduction of the housing benefit caps, local authorities must not place households in accommodation that is beyond their means.

15. While local authorities will likely be keen to explore opportunities in the PRS given the pressures facing them, we advise that this sector is only used as a last resort and in cases where it is appropriate.

February 2013

1 The National Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

2 (How will changes to Local Housing Allowance affect low-income tenants in private rented housing? Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, 2010. No DSS: Locked out of the private rented sector in Hackney, CAB, August 2012). Poor Homes: Poor Health—Private Sector Tenant Choice in 2012 (Pro Housing Alliance, November 2012).

3 How will changes to Local Housing Allowance affect low-income tenants in private rented housing? (Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, 2010)
No DSS: Locked out of the private rented sector in Hackney (CAB, August 2012)

4 Supplementary Guidance on the homelessness changes in the Localism Act 2011 and on the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012

5 DCLG: Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 2012

Prepared 16th July 2013