A crackdown on rogue private landlords will be announced by the Government today to root out “cowboy operators” who rip off or harass their tenants.
All letting and property management agents will soon be forced to join a redress scheme to ensure tenants can complain about hidden fees and poor service and can receive compensation when a complaint is upheld. At present, only 3,000 agents, some 40 per cent of the industry, have joined one of these schemes.
The Government will issue a code of practice setting standards for managing private rented property, which is likely to be given legal force later. A new charter for the nine million private tenants in England will help them take action if they are the victim of hidden charges or sub-standard accommodation. Ministers will consider forcing landlords to repay rent when a house or flat is found to have serious hazards. Councils could recoup housing-benefit payments for such properties.
A model agreement for long-term tenancies of three years or more will give families more security and local authorities will be urged to protect private tenants from illegal eviction.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said: “The private rented market is a vital asset to this country. It’s an important option for the millions of people who want a bit more flexibility, or to simply save up for a deposit so they can buy a place of their own.
“This Government is on the side of hard-working people and the last thing we want to do is hurt tenants and kill investment by increasing costs and strangling the sector with red tape. But tenants deserve better value for money and dodgy landlords should be under no illusion they can provide a shoddy service with impunity.”
Mr Pickles said his reforms would increase the quality and choice of rented accommodation and “sharpen the tools available to tenants and councils so we can root out the cowboys and rogue operators in the sector”. He added: “These measures will also give tenants the know-how to demand longer-term tenancies that cut costs and meet their needs – and when things do go wrong, the confidence to take action without fear of eviction or harassment.”
Shelter, the housing charity, has called for an end to letting fees amid fears that they are pushing people into debt. Its survey of 58 agencies this summer found that all charged renters fees to set up a tenancy.