Another TV show earns rebuke from landlords body

The Residential Landlords Association has written to ITV expressing concern about what it calls “a biased representation of conditions within the private rented sector.” RLA chairman Alan Ward has contacted Michael Jeremy, director of news and current affairs at ITV, complaining that no landlord body was invited to contribute to the discussion.

“Had they done so, ITV would have been able to note to viewers that there are over 100 Acts of Parliament containing around 400 regulations affecting the private rented market” says Ward.

Without that, he claims, the show perpetuates a negative stereotype of landlords that the RLA feels is unjustified. Ward reiterates the RLA stance that there should be further enforcement within the PRS to deter criminal landlords operating “under the radar”.

Last week, Letting Agent Today reported that the RLA had contacted the BBC over what it claims to be a misleading suggestion made in a Panorama programme that the private rental market is being deregulated.

The full text of the latest letter, to ITV, is as follows:

Dear Mr Jeremy

Tonight: Britain’s Housing Crisis – Screened 5th March 2015

I am writing to express the Residential Landlord Association’s deep concerns regarding the above programme.

The programme gave the impression that tenants in rented accommodation have few rights, with James Plunkett from the Citizens Advice Bureau arguing that “in many ways you have more rights if you are buying a toaster than if you rent a flat.”

Such a statement was left unchallenged and it was remiss of ITV not to carry the views of a body representing landlords.

Had they done so, ITV would have been able to note to viewers that there are over 100 Acts of Parliament containing around 400 regulations affecting the private rented market. I enclose a copy of this information.

The programme also mentioned the issue of so called ‘retaliatory evictions’ whereby tenants can find themselves evicted because they have made a complaint about conditions in a property.

Why did ITV not reference the Consumer Protection Regulations that already provide protections against such actions?

In June 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued guidance on the relationship between landlords and tenants. This guidance makes clear that under the terms of the 2008 Unfair Trading Regulations, coming from the Consumer Protection Act, it is a breach of these where “any commercial practice that, in the context of the particular circumstances, intimidates or exploits consumers such as to restrict (or be likely to restrict) their ability to make free or informed choices in relation to a product, and which cause or are likely to cause the average consumer to take a different transactional decision. These are known as aggressive practices.”

In the examples of what could constitute aggressive practices, it includes, “Threatening the tenant with eviction to dissuade them from exercising rights they have under the tenancy agreement or in law, for example where they wish to make a complaint to a local authority about the condition of the property, or seek damages for disrepair.”

More specifically, the programme featured a profile of the Jones family whose rented property contained extensive mould; was excessively cold; had inadequate insulation and had the potential for water leaking into the mains electrics box from the bathroom directly above it.

I would ask why ITV did not, in its programme, explain that such conditions are already illegal under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System which local authorities have a duty to uphold.

In light of this, I look forward to receiving a response to the following questions:

1. What efforts did ITV take to ensure a representative of a landlord body was given an opportunity to respond to the allegations made about there being little protection for tenants?

2. Why were the comments from James Plunkett left unchallenged?

3. What research had ITV undertaken before the programme about the rights and regulatory protections that tenants already have?

4. Had the Jones’ family reported their concerns about the condition of their property to the local authority? If not, why not? If they did, why did the local authority not take action?

5. Why did the programme not mention the issue of enforcement? Regulations are useless without proper enforcement. For example:

– 54% of councils fear they will not be able to fund their statutory obligations, which include Environmental Health (LGIU and Management Journal survey).

– In 2013, a Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the Private Rented Sector outlined concerns that “the police are sometimes unaware of their responsibilities in dealing with reports of illegal eviction.”

– The same report expressed concerns “about reports of reductions in staff who have responsibility for enforcement and tenancy relations and who have an important role in making approaches to raising standards successful.”

In light of the skewed nature of the programme, I would welcome an early opportunity on ITV to respond to the allegations made within it.

Given the concerns the RLA’s members will have about the programme, I am publishing a copy of this letter on the RLA’s website.

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Ward

Chairman

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