Rental horrors exposed

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WIGAN Council is receiving hundreds of complaints a year about private landlords.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Wigan Evening Post can exclusively reveal that there have been more than 1,200 complaints made by tenants to Wigan Council about private landlords who are leaving tenants in squalid properties which could result in disease and even death say one housing charity.

Complaints include dangerous electrical problem, rotting floorboards and damp, as well as drainage and gas safety issues. And the figures show that since 2009/10 there has been a steady rise each year in the number of complaints made to Wigan Council about problems.

They have risen from 360 in 2009/10 to 436 in 2011/12.

The figures have brought about concern from the housing charity Shelter. Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns for Shelter, said: “There has been huge growth in the number of people renting privately over the last decade.

“However there is a small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords who pay no regard to ensuring properties are fit to live in, and exploit people who are least able to find anywhere else to live.

“This means the condition of many of these homes remain poor, leaving families living with problems such as mould, damp, excessive cold, and even life-threatening defects such as fire and electrical hazards.

“Local authorities already have the powers to investigate complaints and prosecute rogue landlords, and with no sign of the rental boom subsiding, they should make rooting out these unscrupulous operators a priority.

“As a tenant, it can be difficult to know what your rights are and who to complain to when you have a problem with your property.”

Wigan Council says it is doing all they can to work with landlords to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities to their tenants.

Peter Layland, head of housing and regeneration, said: “Using Housing Benefit data, we estimate that the number of properties with private landlords in the borough may have doubled since the last census.

“The vast majority of landlords are excellent landlords. They view their tenants as customers and know that if they provide a good service, they will attract good tenants who will stay there a long time, look after the property and pay the rent. The council provides support to help them do this.

“We hold the Landlords’ Forum twice a year, with speakers and information. It is regularly attended by over a hundred local landlords, we also offer online advice, training and discuss accreditation and leasing arrangements.”

For advice, visit Shelter’s website www.shelter.org.uk or call the helpline on 08088004444.