Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
City is doing great work to root out rogue landlords
10:00am Thursday 5th December 2013 in News
THE first house I rented was in Oxford and I still remember the harsh reality of being ripped off by the landlord, who knew it was all too easy to use some bogus excuse not to give five students their full deposit back.
The city is home to tens of thousands of students and young professionals, with two universities and close transport links to London.
Unfortunately, high demand for housing acts as a powerful incentive for some landlords to rent out substandard housing.
On a recent visit to Oxford, I saw the impressive work that the city council is doing to drive up standards in the private rented sector.
The local authority is successfully rooting out the rogue landlords who ignore their responsibilities and give the city’s many good landlords a bad name.
The council has introduced a system of licensing which regulates private landlords who rent out houses occupied by people who don’t form a family unit, so-called HMOs.
These landlords must obtain a licence from the council and their properties must meet certain standards, which include decent living space and facilities appropriate to the number of tenants.
Before they introduced the scheme, the council estimated that 70 per cent of HMOs would need work, but in fact a shocking 97 per cent of properties needed additional work to meet standards and some lacked basic safety measures like fire alarms.
I saw some of these conditions for myself.
I visited two properties in different parts of the city. The first had two bathrooms and a third separate lavatory, and had good kitchen facilities.
The council had no hesitation in awarding it a licence. The other property, however, was appalling. The kitchen was a health hazard and the house as a whole wasn’t fit for purpose. Rightly, the landlord was refused a licence.
Under the scheme, Oxford City Council has prosecuted landlords who do not protect the basic rights of tenants and fail to take on their responsibilities.
These landlords are committing a criminal offence and face a fine of up to £20,000.
The problem of substandard housing is not confined to HMOs, nor to Oxford.
According to the English Housing Survey, over a third of properties rented out by private landlords do not meet basic standards, a considerably higher proportion than any other housing tenure.
The largest study of private renters to date, by the housing charity Shelter, found that one in nine tenants says their health has been affected by their landlord failing to carry out repairs or deal with poor conditions in their home.
Complaints about landlords to local authorities are rising. This is against a backdrop of rents that have increased above inflation year on year and are central to the cost of living crisis.
Oxford City Council is blazing a trail that other local authorities across England are drawing inspiration from.
Its innovative licensing scheme is driving up standards for tens of thousands of tenants and ensuring that their rights are protected.
However, local authorities need more powers to deal with problems across the private rented sector.
There are now nine million people renting from landlords across England.
Many are being denied basic standards. We need serious action to prevent the exploitation of tenants and root out poor living conditions.
That’s why a Labour Government will introduce a national register of landlords and give local authorities greater powers and flexibility to introduce licensing schemes.
Good landlords have nothing to fear, but at present there are too many bad landlords who prey on vulnerable tenants.
Comments are closed on this article.