Rogue operators revealed in Channel 4 documentary
Rogue operators in last night’s Landlords from Hell documentary on C4 were shown as greedily preying on their tenants, providing squalid, damp and dangerous accommodation.
Presenter Jon Snow, who used to work at a day centre for London’s homeless before his television career, said that making the documentary proved a shocking and upsetting eye-opener.
“I had no idea that such widespread abuse and exploitation still plays such a role in the private rented sector,” he said.
“This month I have spent hours in flats and houses in which you would not leave a dog for an hour. I have smelt the dank fungi that leaches its way across the walls of a two-bedroom flat in Rochdale and wandered between rows of garden sheds to the west of London in which rafts of men live two, three, and four to a shed.
“At night you hear the voices in the dark, see the chinks of light through the boards, hear the clank of cooking pots as they prepare supper at the end of a working day.
“It perplexes me that society can be so consumed with the state of education and health provision in Britain, and yet turn so active a blind eye to the true state of where people actually live.”
The housing charity Shelter estimates there is a shortage of a million homes in the UK.
Snow said: “Shortages push better-off people further down the housing chain to squeeze the vulnerable out of the bottom onto the streets.
“Britain today has a housing crisis on a level with that at the end of the Second World War and yet is building fewer homes than at any time since the First World War.”
The documentary is certain to stir up new calls for mandatory licensing of landlords and letting agents. The housing charity Shelter is already running a campaign to license landlords to drive rogues out of the sector.
Snow said: “There is no register of landlords, no record kept of who is running all those buy-to-lets. Local authorities dare not inspect many establishments for fear that they will have to re-house those inside – they have nowhere to re-house anyone.
“The Government’s own figures reveal that 40% of all housing in the private sector is in ‘poor condition’.
“And this is the 21st Century.”
Shelter yesterday said that over 7.5 million tenants have had issues with their landlords in the last ten years. Three million said the landlords did nothing to address the problems.
An independent survey by YouGov, commissioned by Shelter, showed 16% of tenants have had problems, but that 41% of tenants who had tried talking to their landlord did not receive any help.
A worrying 7% – which equates to 550,000 tenants – said they dared not complain because they were scared of the consequences.
An estimated 3.4 million people in England now live in the private rented sector, with a 40% rise in the past five years.
Two-thirds of people surveyed agree that they want stronger rules for landlords to protect private tenants.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The Government have to recognise their responsibility to protect this vast and growing population of private tenants, especially when our research has proved that Generation Rent want better rules to protect them.
“We urge the housing minister to work closely with all local authorities and ensure they are using every weapon in their armoury to crack down on unlawful operators.
“It is absolutely essential that we are sending a clear signal to tenants, landlords and local authorities that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority.”
Shelter says that cuts to housing benefit and lack of social housing will push vulnerable families into the bottom end of an unregulated private rented sector, where they will be at the mercy of rogue landlords looking to cash in.
Robb said: “Throughout this campaign we have been continually shocked at the treatment tenants receive at the hands of these unscrupulous operators. What is more worrying is just how many people are being affected by rogue landlord practice.”