Locally, during the year 2014-15, housing was the fifth largest problem which people came to see Citizens Advice Hart about, responsible for almost 1 in 10 of the total of 8526 problems people came to see us about.
In the last year more than 80,000 people came to us nationally suffering a problem with a privately rented home. That’s 230 people every day, hit by issues from illegal eviction to harassment to lost deposits and struggles to secure the most basic repairs.
No surprise then that Citizens Advice has been running a campaign throughout 2015 and into 2016 aimed at improving the private rented sector.
The private rental sector remains a market in which consumers are woefully under-protected. We want this to change. We don’t see why renters should expect anything less than the protections consumers take for granted elsewhere – repairs that get done, systems to protect them from cowboys, refunds when things go badly wrong.
Citizens Advice is campaigning for better protections for private renters. We believe that:
* No renter should ever have to pay excessive and inexplicable fees for the basic services a letting agent provides.
We want to see an end to extortionate fees levied on renters by letting agents.
* No renter should be at the mercy of rogue landlords who consistently break the rules, taking deposits unlawfully, harassing tenants or renting substandard homes.
We want to see all local authorities in England set up a register of landlords that tackles the specific problems in their area.
* No renter should ever be left out of pocket after renting a home which proves to be dangerous or uninhabitable.
We want tenants to be entitled to rent refunds where the property they’re living in is dangerous or not fit to live in.
* No renter should be evicted simply for complaining about bad conditions.
Success! From 1 October 2015, the Deregulation Act 2015 makes retaliatory evictions unlawful.
* No renter should ever lose their home at a moment’s notice.
We want all tenants to get reasonable notice before having to move out, even when caught up in a landlord’s eviction.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have previously made it clear that letting agents need to clearly outline their fees on any adverts they publish, on or offline, for their rented homes. However, now this requirement has been extended and enforced in law. Since 27 May 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has introduced a new obligation for letting agents in the private rented sector in England and Wales to publicise the following within their offices too:
* details of the fees they charge
* whether or not they are a member of a client money protection scheme
* details of the redress scheme they have joined (England only)
The intention of the legislation is that both landlords and tenants will know, or be able to calculate, exactly what they will be charged and when.
The requirement is enforced by Trading Standards who can impose a financial penalty of up to £5,000. It does not apply to local authorities who find residents tenancies in the private rented sector.
The Deregulation Act is on the statue book and came into effect on 1 October 2015 – which should be the beginning of the end for retaliatory evictions. Congratulations and thanks very much to all of those who took action to persuade MPs and Lords to support the amendments.
The new provisions prohibit landlords from serving a no-fault ‘section 21’ eviction notice for six months following the issue of a local authority improvement notice. Victims of revenge eviction will now have a right of appeal under these terms.
If you find yourself let down in either of these situations, contact us for advice.
The kind of things that Citizens Advice Hart can help with
At Citizens Advice Hart, for example, one of our advisors worked with a client who was having problems with a dispute she was having with her landlord about getting her deposit back. The landlord agreed to pay the money back, but when it came to it, the money was not forthcoming, and the client came back to the Citizens Advice Hart advisor, who helped the client finally get the money back. The client said, “If only the deposit scheme had been as useful as the Citizens Advice were for me.”
If you are having problems with a private landlord, or a letting agent, contact us for advice.
Our colleagues at Citizens Advice Rushmoor recently published an excellent report, undertaking a detailed piece of research around the themes of the campaign as it affects the nearby areas of Aldershot and Farnborough. For more details, click here
Working with Hart District Council
Citizens Advice Hart work closely with Hart District Council’s Housing Services Department and recently spent time talking to them about their advice provision for people in housing difficulties.
Hart District Council provides a free service for people seeking advice and support with their housing and remain committed to preventing homelessness wherever possible.
The Housing Options Service offers advice on landlord / tenant rights, Illegal evictions and disrepair issues. Advice is offered to all clients that approach the service, with the aim to prevent homelessness occurring.
In addition to general advice and assistance the housing team maybe able to assist clients through the Councils Rent Bond Scheme. This scheme can look to assist people who are homeless or who are facing homelessness, find suitable alternative accommodation in the private rented sector.
To enable the housing team find suitable private rents, the staff are continually looking for landlords with properties to let. Therefore if you own or manage a property in Hart or surrounding areas and are looking for tenants, contact Hart District Councils, housing team who will assist you and at NO COST to yourselves!
Hart’s Housing Services offer a range of financial and other benefits as part of their incentive scheme for landlords. And can offer tenants AND landlords a range of support services in order to create lasting tenancies. For further information by visiting http://www.hart.gov.uk/housing-advice or by contacting the Landlord Liaison Officer Natasha Summers or Tenancy Sustainment Officer Claire Boxall on 01252 774420 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.