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Charity claims half million children living in unsafe private rented homes

Rogue landlords are raking in £5.6 billion a year for unsafe homes that fail to meet legal standards, a report by Citizens Advice claims.

The study says that 740,000 households in England live in privately rented homes that present a severe threat to tenants health.

The report, A Nation of Renters, states that these properties have category 1 hazards – the most serious of problems. These can include a host of dangers, such as: severe damp, rat infestations and risk of explosions.

The charity says that latest available data shows these properties contain 510,000 children and 180,000 have a disabled person. It also says that landlords are receiving £5.6 billion a year on rent for homes with category 1 hazards, which includes £1.3 billion of housing benefit.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says rogue landlords are putting profits before safety. With a growing private rental sector, increasing numbers of people – including more than 500,000 children – are falling prey to landlords who fail to meet decent standards.

Citizens Advice says private renters are woefully under-protected and have to navigate through numerous pieces of complex legislation to seek legal redress from landlords.

It says that taking court action against a landlord can be long, complicated and expensive. This is compounded by the fact many complaints have to be made to local authorities, which often do not have the capacity to act quickly.

Responding to the report, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said better enforcement is needed of laws and regulations to protect tenants in private rented housing.

Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that during the last Parliament, the budgets of local authority enforcement departments were cut by over 37% per head of population in England.
Recent research conducted by the Local Government Information Unit and Management Journal has also found that 54% of local authorities believe that they are in danger of being unable to fund their statutory services which include Environmental Health Services.

The RLA claimed that with landlord investment running at £50 billion a year, the standard of private rented housing has improved by 36% between 2006 and 2013.

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