Hundreds of thousands of tenants in England are living mouldy or hazardous homes because of “weak and confusing” regulations, Citizens Advice warns.
A survey by the charity found that many landlords don’t know or understand their legal obligations, while renters aren’t aware of their rights or don’t feel able to enforce them.
Almost one in three tenants (32%) said their house did not have a carbon monoxide alarm despite requiring one. This equates to around 900,000 homes.
Three in five tenants (60%) identified disrepair in their home in the last two years that was not caused by them that their landlord was responsible for fixing. One in six (15%) said the disrepair was a major threat to their health and safety.
Citizens Advice also questioned landlords and found a quarter of had failed to make sure there is a smoke alarm on each floor of all of their properties.
The same number failed to carry out an annual gas safety check or make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms were working.
The charity is calling for a national housing body for private renting to set standards, which could include creating a home “MOT”, setting a “fit-and-proper-person” test for landlords and standardising rental contracts.
Three quarters (75%) of landlords questioned said a single national housing body responsible for setting standards would make their job easier.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says: “Too many private renters live in hazardous homes - often with dangerous flaws.
“Weak and confusing regulation means landlords can struggle to understand their legal obligations, while tenants find it hard to get problems in their homes resolved.
“The government must establish a national housing body to ensure landlords let property that meet legal standards, and gives renters the support they need when they don’t.”
Almost one in three landlords said they find it difficult to keep up with rules and regulations. Half said they did not know the potential penalty (a fine of up to £5,000) for not checking smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order on the first day of the tenancy. The same proportion didn’t know the penalty for not carrying out a gas safety check.