Errors in English Private Landlords Survey and English Housing Survey

by Readers Question

14:06 PM, 12th August 2019
About 4 months ago

Errors in English Private Landlords Survey and English Housing Survey

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Errors in English Private Landlords Survey and English Housing Survey

I have sent the following email to the ehs@communities.gov.uk and also my MP along with the current Housing Secretary and Housing Minister

Please can anyone who is able please also send this, or something like it to their MP and generally try to highlight the problem with the survey questionnaires. Email content follows:

I am writing to highlight a problem with the way that data is being collected (and subsequently mis-reported in the Media) for the English Housing Surveys and English Private Landlord Surveys. To try and explain as briefly as possible:

EPLS 2018 records that:

Only 0.4% of landlords and their agents report having not carried out a gas safety check for their most recent letting. Whilst it is disappointing that any landlord or agent has not not met the requirement, this is a fairly low number and means that 99.6% of landlords and their agents may be in full compliance with his requirement.

However, all the commentary from Shelter and Citizens Advice, Generation Rent, The Guardian, all (remarkably, unchallenged by the Landlord Associations) has combined the other 2 possible response options in the questionnaire to produce an alleged failure of compliance at a much higher level. In some cases alleged ‘non compliance’ is quoted as being 25% on the gas safety check point alone – and similar errors are repeated throughout all the claims of non compliance across all the various checks required of private landlords.

There is no evidence for these claims of higher non compliance from these surveys.

To try and explain in more detail:

The questionnaires relating to many of the compliance / standards issues generally have options for ‘Yes’ – ‘No’ – or, for anything else, a single box: ‘Don’t Know / Not Applicable’

‘Don’t Know’ and ‘Not Applicable’ are two very different things. This gives rise to the false results.

The questions asking whether a gas safety inspection has been carried out at a property have these 3 choices of answer.
The only box you can fill in for a property with No Gas – is the ‘Don’t Know / Not Applicable’.

This gives rise to completely misleading data as the ‘No’, and ‘Don’t Know / Not Applicable’ results are then used to purport to show that a significant percentage of properties that should have had a gas safety inspection, have not had one carried out – but in fact the overwhelming majority (maybe all) of the ‘Don’t Know / Not Applicable’ answers will be because the property has no gas.

Around 20% of Private Rented Properties have No Gas Supply and so do not need a gas safety inspection and so the distortion to the results is likely to be very high. This type of error is repeated across many of the compliance / standards questions, leading to misleading and incorrect claims being made in the Media and by Campaign Groups.

Surely we want the English Housing Survey and English Private Landlord Survey to give an accurate picture of the facts?

For this to be possible, ‘Not Applicable’ and ‘Don’t Know’ need to be separate answer choices.

Please can you give urgent thought to amending the way these questions are asked.

I would be grateful for your response on this.

Thank you

Jon

See P15 to 16 of the Survey Questionnaire by following this link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-private-landlord-survey-2018-questionnaire



Comments

Dr Rosalind Beck

11:03 AM, 13th August 2019
About 4 months ago

Very good points and well done for making the effort to get this addressed.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

11:37 AM, 13th August 2019
About 4 months ago

"Only 0.4% of landlords and their agents report having not carried out a gas safety check for their most recent letting."

Hold on. I thought a gas safety check had to be carried out once a year. So if a new tenant comes in while the 12 month certificate is still valid there would be no need to carry out a new inspection until the existing one had expired. Unless I am wrong since I let an HMO for which rules may be different

ahloughlin@gmail.com

12:09 PM, 13th August 2019
About 4 months ago

Just another, albeit spurious, reason to go landlord bashing.

Richard P-W

16:05 PM, 13th August 2019
About 4 months ago

Thank you for reporting this. I have emailed to similar parties too!

Gunga Din

18:53 PM, 13th August 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 13/08/2019 - 11:37
Agreed.

Jon

14:50 PM, 14th August 2019
About 4 months ago

Frederick raises a further excellent point and I think there are other possible scenarios whereby the 'No' answer could still indicate compliance with the law. Apparently, in the EHS Surveys at least (I have not found a definitive answer for the EPLS Surveys), not only are owners of homes with a lodger counted as Private Landlords (with a Gas Safety Certificate being required in this situation but not an EPC) but also people letting a friend or relative stay in their house, or flat, for free for any reason are counted as 'Private Landlords' - neither a Gas Safety Certificate nor an EPC are required in this situation - so a 'No' response would not necessarily indicate failure to comply with legislation.
It is entirely plausible that 100% of Landlords are compliant with the Gas, EPC, Smoke Alarm and CO Alarm Regs - until the survey questions are improved we will never know for sure.


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