NEW research by Citizens Advice shows the charity is now helping one person every minute with problems relating to renting from a private landlord.
In the first two months of this year, the charity saw a 40 per cent increase in people seeking one-to-one advice on issues relating to the private rented sector compared to the same period in 2020.
A year ago, on March 26 2020, the government announced a ban on most eviction proceedings. That ban was extended several times and is in place until May 31 2021.
However, its conditions have been altered so that tenants with more than six months’ rent outstanding can now be served with an eviction notice. This includes people who have built up arrears during the pandemic.
Polling by Citizens Advice, through its national Tenants’ Voice panel, shows private renters are still concerned by the threat of eviction despite the ban. A third said they had been worried about the issue in the last three months.
Figures from the charity’s website show that, in the first two months of this year, 69,000 people viewed its online advice pages containing help with problems related to private tenancies.
Citizens Advice also helped 16,530 people with one-to-one advice on these issues in the same two-month period – that’s one every minute during office hours.
This includes: 29 per cent who had problems with repairs or maintenance; nine per cent who were worried about possession action not related to rent arrears; five per cent who reported harassment by their landlord; and four per cent who wanted help with a possible illegal eviction.
The Tenants’ Voice panel also found that two thirds of those surveyed had experienced problems with maintenance or disrepair in the last three months.
‘New Year Same Arrears’, a Citizens Advice report released in January 2021, showed that half a million private renters in the UK are behind on their rent.
The average amount owed is more than £700, with an estimated £360 million owed across the UK. More than half (58%) of those now behind on rent had no rent arrears in February 2020.
Citizens Advice says the forthcoming Renters’ Reform Bill is an opportunity to lay the foundations of a fairer private rented sector.
The charity wants:
- An end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions – as promised by the government in 2019.
- Indefinite tenancies used as standard, to give renters more certainty and flexibility, and reduce their exposure to annual rent increases.
- A new National Housing Body and register to set consistent standards, give tenants greater protection, and help responsible landlords.
Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government’s eviction ban helped private tenants feel more secure during the pandemic. But it’s been a case of papering over the cracks.
“Our research paints a disturbing picture of a private rental market in which tenants pay high rents on badly maintained properties, while living in constant fear that any complaint could result in summary eviction.
“The Renters’ Reform Bill is an opportunity to lay better foundations for a more equitable private rental market which provides better quality housing and helps tenants feel more settled in their homes.”
For people already struggling with rent before the pandemic, 40% reported their arrears have got worse.
Citizens Advice’s research also shows tenants who do complain about disrepair or maintenance issues have a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice within six months of doing so.
During COVID restrictions, Bridport & District Citizens Advice offers comprehensive advice on housing, debt, benefits and other issues.
Telephone freephone 0800 144 8848 or send an email using the contact form on the website www.bridportca.org.uk or leave a message on 01308 456594.