“Time to fix the broken housing market”

Monday 6th March 2017

Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, has welcomed the publication last month of the government White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’.


This comes as the charity’s latest figures show a 10% increase in enquiries about threatened homelessness.


Responding to news that the White Paper will look to improve security for private tenants and build more homes for rent, the charity said the plans are welcome and overdue.


Citizens Advice Exeter also said that whilst these are important changes for the long term, the Government needs to be more ambitious about achieving positive change for private renters right now.


Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Exeter Steve Barriball said:


“We regularly see first-hand the many problems tenants can face in the broken private rental market. We help clients on everything from illegal eviction to affordability to harassment to securing repairs.


“The private rented sector is in urgent need of reform not least because the number of private tenants is rapidly increasing — from 11% of all households in 2004–05 to 19% in 2014–15. So it is crucial that the private rented sector is fit for purpose.


“A key proposal in the White Paper is the introduction of three year tenancies for private renters. This is an important step forward. However, these contracts are restricted to certain new properties. This means millions of tenants will miss out. We think all renters should have a right to long term tenancies and want to see the Government introduce measures as soon as possible across the board, so that all tenants are able to choose the contract that is right for them.


“We welcome the intention to raise standards in the private rented sector and want to see the Government make client money protection mandatory for letting agents as soon as possible. Tenants and landlords need to know their money is safe from letting agent bankruptcy and fraud.


“It’s welcome news that the Government is looking to do more to support struggling families already renting privately. However, it is crucial that the Government’s proposals are ambitious enough to deliver the change that’s needed, so that all private tenants are able to live in a decent, affordable, secure home.”


The advice trends over the period 1 April 2016 – 31 January 2017, were as follows:



Overall, the charity dealt with 14.2% fewer housing enquiries. The main changes being:


  • 23.6% decrease about threatened homelessness
  • 19.4% decrease about private sector property
  • 56.8% increase about housing association properties
  • 10.9% increase about actual homelessness


Case studies – focus on housing problems:


  1. A private tenant whose home had been bought by another landlord and who was unable to obtain their deposit from the previous landlord as it had not been placed in a tenancy deposit scheme, despite having a receipt for the deposit.
  2. A client whose landlord chased them for the cost of repairs, most of which they challenged as being excessive. After our intervention the charges were reduced by more than half. In the meantime the landlord withheld the deposit.
  3. A letting agent who refused to terminate the rent agreement despite there being no current gas certificate, a broken central heating system and a water leak into the electrics of the property.


Welfare benefits

Overall, the charity dealt with 11.5% more welfare benefit enquiries this financial year. The main increases being:


  • 21.4% increase about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)
  • 14.4% increase about employment and support allowance


The charity also dealt with 97 enquires about the new Universal Credit benefit system.



Overall, the charity dealt with 12.7% fewer employment enquiries. The main changes being:


  • 37.1% decrease about dispute resolution
  • 17.2% decrease about dismissal
  • 45.0% increase about employment tribunals
  • 12.0% increase about terms and conditions



Overall, the charity dealt with 10.9% fewer debt enquiries. The main changes being:


  • 32.8% decrease about catalogue and mail order debts
  • 24.2% decrease about credit card debts
  • 62.5% increase about payday loans
  • 10.7% increase about bankruptcy and debt relief orders