‘Time is up’ for rogue landlords who provide poor student living conditions, minister warns

Posted on: 2019-03-25 09:00:00

Rogue landlords who are “exploiting vulnerable students” and providing poor living conditions must raise their standards or face being taken to court, the universities minister will warn.

Chris Skidmore is preparing to hit out at landlords who are failing to provide “basic standards of living” for students.

“Students’ time at university should be some of the best days of their lives and yet I have heard appalling stories of students living in terrible conditions, which can affect their studies and even their mental health,” Mr Skidmore will tell students on Monday.

“While there are many landlords who do take their responsibilities seriously, for too long rogue private landlords have been exploiting vulnerable students by failing to provide even basic standards of living.”

Mr Skidmore will warn “the time is up” for landlords “making a profit from shoddy accommodation”.

Recently introduced regulations now empower students and other renters to take their landlords to court if they fail to address serious home defects such as mould, damp and safety hazards.

“These new regulations make landlords more accountable, helping to improve standards, and students should use their powers to make sure landlords face justice where they’re not fulfilling their responsibilities,” Mr Skidmore is expected to say.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into force last Wednesday, aims to help improve rental home standards in the social and private sectors, and allows tenants to hold their landlords to account if their properties pose health and safety risks.

A survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) found in 2018, 40 per cent of privately renting UK students lived with damp and mould on their walls.

Issues with vermin or insect infestation were reported by 20 per cent of student renters, 16 per cent reported living in properties with electrical safety hazards and 9 per cent reported gas safety hazards.

More than a third of students (36 per cent) said poor living conditions made them feel anxious or depressed.

Student housing charity Unipol and Universities UK have created codes of practice for landlords to sign up to in order to help ensure standards are met.

The universities minister is calling on all private landlords renting properties to students to sign up to the codes.

Minister for housing Heather Wheeler said the government had “worked tirelessly to ensure all tenants, including students, have access to a fairer private rented market across the country”.

She said steps taken included reducing unnecessary costs through the Tenant Fees Act, extending houses in multiple occupation (HMO) regulations to protect more tenants and providing councils funding to tackle rogue landlords.

“Now, these changes are set to have a real impact,” Ms Wheeler added. “Students must use these powers to crack down on poor quality accommodation and opportunistic landlords profiting from tenants’ misery.”

The Department for Education said Mr Skidmore wanted to encourage universities to consider “the social value” of contracting out services, such as accommodation, to help benefit the wider community.

He is working with the University of Northampton to look at how universities can embed social values in their procurement practices.

Source: Independent

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