Tenants at Risk in 1 Million Shoddy Buy to Let Homes

Tenants at Risk in 1 Million Shoddy Buy to Let Homes

10:09 AM, 30th November 2011, About 12 years ago 2

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One in three buy to let homes have major safety hazards putting tenants at risk, claims a government survey of homes in England.

The English Housing Survey discloses just over 28% of privately rented homes have a ‘category 1 hazard’ – compared with 14.5% of social housing, just under 11% of housing association properties and 21.5% of privately owned homes.

A category 1 hazard includes risks that can lead to death, cancer, permanent loss of consciousness, serious burns, losing a limb, eyesight problems, heart attacks or poisoning.

If a category 1 hazard is identified, a council should close the property or order an immediate repair.

The survey shows tenants in flats are most at risk, around one in four having at least one hazard while older properties are more likely to have faults – at 41% compared to just 4.6% of new homes.

According to other government statistics, England has around 3.2 million buy to let homes – meaning tenants face dangers in at least 1 million rental homes.

In total, households are at risk in around 5 million English homes with hazards.

Conveyancing firm SearchFlow reckons property owners would have to spend more than £52 billion to remove all the hazards – but suggests many could be dealt with for less than £1,000 in 85% of cases.

Stuart Pearce, chief executive of SearchFlow, said: “When private dwellings are assessed by local authorities, there’s a one in five chance there will be a hazard present which requires immediate attention. This is a cost most property owners don’t factor into their plans and can therefore prove very hard to deal with.

“If you don’t make the required repairs – even if you can’t afford to – local authorities have the power to issue prohibition orders, which mean you aren’t legally allowed to live there any longer. In this situation, the only option for the owner may be to sell at a knockdown price.”

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10:41 AM, 1st December 2011, About 12 years ago

Sounds entirely predictable to me: many amateur landlords think it's fine for their tenants to inherit the faults of what was a privately-owned house, and then they don't spend much money maintaining their properties because they are operating on tight margins and suspect that any improvements they do make won't be cared for by the tenants.

In my experience rental properties do tend to degrade faster than privately-owned ones, because of the turnover of occupants and because tenants don't look after things properly. The contemporary obsession with inventories is only followed by some landlords; others just let things slide.

It's interesting though that 21% of privately-owned houses are judged to contain these risks. There's lots of legislation that landlords and housing associations have to follow - gas safety, electrical inspections every 5 years, non-flammable furnishings, EPCs, small appliance testing - but why does none of this apply to private houses? There's the "duty of care" argument that landlords are meant to show towards their tenants, though oddly this doesn't apply in the opposite direction, that tenants have a duty to look after their landlord's property, but the same duties don't apply to homeowners, for example to have their gas devices inspected every year in order to protect resident children.

I suspect there's some primal prejudices going on here: all landlords are like Rigsby or Rachmann and therefore are in need of surveillance and control to protect their always-"vulnerable" tenants, but an English owner's home is his castle, free to burn down or gas as he wishes.

Ian Ringrose

11:13 AM, 6th December 2011, About 12 years ago

As I understand it a landlord does not need to make a property meet current safety standards. We were told that it was OK for our landlord to have unsafe glass in a low window, as it kept to the building regs at the time it was installed.

The ARLA legal helpline said:

“The glass wasfit for purpose. The landlord was not required to put in safety glass aslong as he fitted the glass before the requirement to do so became part of thebuilding regulations. no landlord is required to retrofit safety glassunless it is being repaired. The Court of Appeal has ruled on this in Alker v Collingwood Housing Association”

I think this may cover a lot of hese ‘category 1 hazard’

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