Today, we release our Housing Justice Network research report into the enforcement of disrepair for tenants, which has been 6 months in the making. The Housing Justice Network is a collaboration between GMLC, Greater Manchester Tenants Union and Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit.
This report considers the ways in which Local Authorities in Greater Manchester enforce tenants’ repair rights through their local enforcement teams. It focuses on the rights of tenants in assured and assured shorthold tenancies (broadly speaking, social and private tenants), rather than those in other forms of accommodation.
The report begins by considering the scale of disrepair in rented accommodation, why disrepair is so widespread, and how many types of disrepair pose a risk to the life and health of tenants.
In Chapter 3, the report outlines the three main enforcement mechanisms that tenants have available to them to ensure that repairs are carried out in their rented accommodation: disrepair proceedings in court, the Housing Ombudsman, and Local Authority enforcement. We highlight the difficulties tenants face in accessing different forms of enforcement, both due to barriers to accessing support and the challenges posed by each approach. We then discuss the importance of robust Local Authority enforcement procedures, especially for private tenants. In particular, we raise the issue of Local Authorities’ power to serve landlords with Improvement Notices, which can provide protection from revenge eviction and unfair rent rises.
Throughout Chapter 3, we include case studies of people’s experiences interacting with Local Authority enforcement teams across Greater Manchester – Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport. These are told from the tenants’/occupiers’ point of view, and as such have not been independently verified; however, they are all individuals that have been supported by GMLC or GMTU and represent a cross-section of similar cases we have seen over the last year. In most of these cases, the landlord has tried to evict the tenant following their reporting of disrepair.
Chapters 4 and 5 lay out data from Freedom of Information requests conducted by GMLC in 2023 covering the rough period February 2022 to February 2023, in which we asked GM’s 10 Local Authorities to share information about their enforcement processes.
In Chapter 6, we analyse the results and come to several key conclusions:
- Both enforcement procedures and data collection are very uneven across the 10 boroughs, making it hard to compare across different Local Authorities to identify and share best and worst practice.
- Different Local Authorities appear to treat social tenants in different ways, with some directing social tenants away to their housing provider’s complaints process or the Housing Ombudsman. All Local Authorities received less reports from social than private tenants.
- Only some Local Authorities have publicly accessible, specific, written policies on housing disrepair enforcement practices.
- Improvement Notices were only served in around 3.9% of cases reported to the Local Authority across the 10 boroughs between February 2022 and February 2023, leaving the vast majority of private tenants vulnerable to revenge eviction.
Chapter 7 ends the report calling for changes to the way Local Authorities conduct enforcement based on our findings. These largely focus on improvements to accessibility, effectiveness, monitoring and accountability of enforcement services across the boroughs.
Read the full report here: Tackling Disrepair: Why Enforcement Matters