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‘They Can’t Complain or They will Be on the Street’: Delay in Renters Reform Bill Puts Tenants in Peril of Mould, Damp and Dangerous Disrepair 

Conservative backbenchers, many of whom are landlords, are trying to abolish schemes which reveal much higher rates of disrepair

Photo: Marcus Harrison/Alamy

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The scale of mould, damp and other illegal conditions in the private rented sector is being heavily underestimated by councils and government and chances to enforce better standards are being missed, a new report on licensing has found. 

The research, by charity Safer Renting and The University of York, investigated five local authorities in London that had instituted selective licensing schemes – similar to a driver’s licence for landlords that applies to a certain number of landlords or types of homes in the borough.

They found that, because their housing inspection regime was proactive (i.e. done beforehand in order for the landlord to get a licence) rather than reactive (i.e. done only when concerns are raised by tenants themselves), they identified much higher rates of disrepair than they would otherwise.

One housing officer told the researchers that logged council complaints about standards “nine times out of ten” came from homes in the borough that were inspected under the selective licensing scheme.

Safer Renting highlighted one case of a home they recently inspected – with 13 adults being forced to share a three-bedroom rented house – with one bathroom between them, no fire safety and a collapsed ceiling. Their landlord was making an estimated £62,400 a year in rent from the property.

Housing campaigners have long raised concerns that the ability for landlords to evict tenants without cause – known as a ‘no fault’ eviction – means tenants are scared to complain about illegal, unaddressed disrepair in their homes as they could be evicted by their landlord as a result.

While the government has pledged to abolish the practice since the last election, its promised ‘Renters Reform Bill’ has been repeatedly delayed. 

It was finally announced last year, but in October plans for a ban on ‘no fault’ evictions were delayed indefinitely until they were able to complete unspecified reforms to the justice system.

Landlord Conservative MPs are ‘Lobbying to Water Down Protections for Renters’

The allegations come as one in three renters say private renting is negatively impacting their mental health – with eviction threats looming in many cases

While Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove vowed the ban would come into force by the next election, in recent weeks a group of Tory MPs, many of whom are landlords themselves, have been heavily lobbying the government to water down the Renters Reform Bill.

The situation has reignited concerns that a proposed landlord portal in the Bill, which would see all private landlords forced to add their names to a government licensing register, may not come with the necessary enforcement and standards to ensure those registered on it are actually providing safe homes.

In fact, last month the Charted Institute of Environmental Health (a membership group for housing safety specialists) raised concerns that the proposed ‘Property Portal’ – even if it comes without proper inspections or enforcement – could lead to the government watering down or outlawing separate enforced selective listening schemes.

Report author and Safer Renting head of service Roz Spencer told Byline Times: “This study tells us strongly that selective licensing needs strengthening with enhanced programmes of inspection and enforcement.

“This report adds to the government’s own data showing that even where licensing is in place, landlord non-compliance is the norm.

She added: “Yesterday we inspected an overcrowded, unlicensed house in multiple occupation which illustrates one of the most serious shortcomings in the Government’s Renters Reform plans – that renters in houses like this, where they have no room of their own and pitifully poor amenities and conditions, have no security of tenure now and won’t have under new ‘security of tenure’  proposals. 

“They can’t complain or they will be on the street; only councils with robust licensing and enforcement programmes are going to be able to find and penalise the property owner. 

“Yet the Government seem to be indulging backbench attempts to hijack their proposed reforms to argue for abolishing selective licensing. This is a real moment of peril for the renters most in need of protection, as an amended Bill could be worse than doing nothing.” 


Mother Fears her Child Becoming the ‘Next Awaab Ishak’ as Damp and Mouldy Home is Left Untreated

Grace Oppong told Byline Times that her daughter has been repeatedly hospitalised due to mould and damp

Concerns about rampant disrepair in UK homes have been growing since the mould-related death in 2020 of toddler Awaab Ishak. In January, the Royal College of Physicians warned of a growing number of deaths caused by damp and mould if the problem goes unaddressed by the government.

Previous reporting from The Observer found that local councils are inspecting just half of all reports of damp and mould they receive about the private rented sector. 

It also found that in the vast majority (87%) of cases where illegal and dangerous levels of damp and mould were identified, councils opted to follow an informal resolution.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities would not confirm if the government would commit to a full licensing scheme as part of the Renters Reform Bill. 

They told Byline Times the “landmark” Bill would “deliver a fairer private rented sector for both responsible tenants and good faith landlords” and that a new Decent Homes standard for private rented homes would “ensure landlords are held to account for their performance”.

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