Over 6,000 Scots contacted the CAB service last year to report problems with landlords and poor housing in the private rented housing sector. This is an increase of 23% over the previous two years, and amounts to 24 cases every working day.
The evidence, revealed today (Wednesday) by Citizens Advice Scotland, includes multiple cases of landlords failing to meet their legal responsibilities, refusing to do basic repairs and bullying or intimidating their tenants.
CAS is today calling on the sector to clean up its act, and urging tenants to stand up for their rights and challenge un-acceptable landlord behaviour.
CAS Housing spokesman Patrick Hogan says,
“The figures we are publishing today are a shocking insight into the worst corners of the private rented sector in Scotland. While most private landlords are responsible and doing right by their tenants, our evidence shows there are far too many who are not.
“In today’s economy many Scots can’t afford to buy their own home, and yet there is not enough affordable social housing for rent. So many find themselves in the private rented sector – often paying higher rents than they can easily afford. This makes it more important than ever that standards are maintained at an acceptable level. Yet Scotland’s CAB advisers are seeing 24 cases every working day where lousy landlords are letting their tenants down.
“The specific case evidence is even more shocking. We regularly see incidents of poor quality housing, dampness and condensation, poor electrical wiring and un-safe appliances not being repaired with landlords too often responding to complaints by harassing, threatening and bullying.
“In publishing this evidence, we are calling on Local Authorities and the Scottish Government to re-double their efforts to monitor the private rented sector and crackdown on those who are giving it a bad name. We also call on all landlords to make sure they are doing right by their tenants.
“But we also have a message today for private sector tenants: Make sure you know what your rights are, and don’t put up with un-acceptable behaviour from your landlord. If you are being treated unfairly, you are not alone and help is available. We are publishing (below) a basic guide to private sector tenant’s rights. But if you want to challenge your landlord, your first step is to get advice. And as ever, your local CAB is ready to help you.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
For interviews etc contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.
Last year (2014/15) the Scottish CAB service recorded a total of 6,230 cases related to problems with private rented sector housing conditions and private rented sector landlords.
In 2012/13 the total number was 5,054.
CAS MESSAGE TO PRIVATE TENANTS – YOU HAVE RIGHTS
CAS reminds all private sector tenants in Scotland: The details of your rights will be contained in your lease. These can vary depending on the type of tenancy you have, so it’s important you check your lease before signing it. However, there are some basic rights that all landlords must observe. These are:
1 Landlords must provide you with a Tenant Information Pack which contains details about your home, tenancy and landlord, and the responsibilities of you and your landlord.
2 Landlords must ensure the property is in a good state of repair, is fit to live in and complies with safety regulations.
3 Landlords can only enter your home if they have a good reason for doing so (like carrying out repairs) and only after giving reasonable notice (usually at least 24 hours).
4 Landlords must give you correct notice before they are able to end your tenancy and usually must receive a court order before they can evict.
5 Landlords cannot change the terms and conditions in your tenancy agreement or add new terms and conditions without your permission.
A full list of landlord responsibilities can be found on www.cas.org.uk.
If your landlord has failed to carry out necessary repairs, has harassed you or has restricted your use of the property, they may be in breach if your tenancy agreement. BUT before challenging your landlord you should get specific advice. Contact your local CAB.
This is a small sample of the sort of cases we have seen. NB These are all anonymous, as we of course have a duty to protect the confidentiality of all CAB clients.
- A CAB reports of a client whose private landlord is not making necessary repairs to his flat. The property’s front door was damaged and partially covered with plywood when the client moved in with their family five months ago but the landlord stated no repairs could be made until first month’s rent was received. The client is in receipt of Housing Benefit which is now being paid direct to the landlord, but no repairs have yet been made. The front door has a large gap below the plywood and there is a constant draught which is detrimentally affecting the family’s health. The flat also has a leak causing water drip from a ceiling light, which the landlord has stated is “condensation”. The shower does not heat the water meaning the client has to bathe his children in the kitchen sink as there is no bath.
- A CAB reports of a private sector tenant who is unable to get their landlord to deal with serious maintenance issues in their flat. There is an on-going issue with mould and damp and repeated attempts to get the landlord to deal with these issues have failed. The landlord has made it clear they will only resolve the issues when requested to do so by the local Council.
- A CAB reports of a client who has been dealing with dampness, rotting and mould around the windows in their privately-rented flat. The landlord has not adequately dealt with the issues and simply painted over the mould/damp. The flat’s washing machine also does not work due to dampness around the plug socket which the landlord has not dealt with. The client is having financial difficulties and after paying rent and utility bills, they find they have little money for food, so they are unable to move and feel trapped in the flat.
- A CAB client has requested help in challenging a landlord who is failing to deal with essential maintenance issues in their flat. The client also feels harassed by the Landlord’s behaviour. There are various problems with the property including rising damp in living room, mould in bathroom and problems with wiring. The client is not happy with how these have been dealt with; for example, the rising damp just covered with new plasterboard; she dealt with the mouldy bathroom herself; and the landlord's father addressed wiring problems – though he is not a qualified professional. Whenever the client complains, the landlord threatens to sell the property. The landlord will frequently visit the property without warning, and the client feels they are trying to force her to move out.
- A CAB reports of a client who is feeling harassed by their landlord. The client told us that when arriving to work, they found that their landlord had contacted their manager to ask them to pass on the message that they were to pay their rent when they got home from work that day or they would find all their belongings in the front garden. The client was very upset and sought CAB help as they couldn’t leave work and check on the flat.
- A CAB reports of a client who has been moving between homes in recent years and staying with family and friends after their home was repossessed. The client currently lives in a privately rented one bedroom flat but the heating is broken and the landlord, who is un-registered, refuses to fix it. The landlord is also threatening the client, saying that he will send friends round to evict her and dump her possessions. The client has been to the police as the harassment is persistent and threatening.