Protecting Bristol’s renters

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Homes and Housing Delivery and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward

Today, we took another step forward in protecting Bristol’s renters — with an updated policy on enforcement action we will be taking where landlords charge fees that are now banned under the Tenant Fees Act (2019). It also noted an updated enforcement policy we have introduced where landlords fail to deliver their obligations around electrical safety.

This progress will allow us to continue to take enforcement action under the Tenants Fees Act 2019 and associated lettings legislation. Local authorities must adopt an enforcement policy detailing how we will deal with decisions under the policy, including financial penalties and how we make decisions to prosecute. Our policy is also widely used as the foundation for enforcement policies adopted by other local authorities.

The private rented sector has grown enormously in Bristol – we estimate there are over 60,000 rented properties, making up 30% of the 202,000 properties in the city. The national average is 19%.

We have limited opportunities to redress the power imbalance between tenants and landlords and to ensure tenants are not exploited by those unscrupulous landlords that focus only on profit and not on providing good quality, well maintained and safe homes. Therefore it is important that we have policies which reflect the powers and responsibilities we do have as the enforcing authority and that we use them.

In accordance with our enforcement policy, most landlords and agents were given the opportunity to repay banned fees and were then audited to ensure compliance with other Trading Standards legislation. Out of a total of 24 breaches, only 3 were dealt with by way of enforcement action against the same persistent landlord. In total £24,153 was recovered for tenants in Bristol during the last financial year.

New regulations in relation to electrical safety in rented properties will protect most renters by requiring landlords to have regular safety checks on the wiring in their homes by competent electricians. Any unsafe works must be attended to by landlords, otherwise they face potentially significant financial penalties. Tenants can now by law also expect to be provided with a current electrical safety certificate before they start a new tenancy. Landlords are also under a duty to advise the Council when unsafe installations have been made safe.

These are more tools we have in the work we are doing protecting Bristol’s renters and making sure that all homes in Bristol are safe and landlords responsible. If you are a tenant in Bristol and concerned that you may be being charged illegal fees, then I would encourage you to access support available to you to enforce your rights. Want to know more about types of fees that are banned? You can read more in this guide produced by Shelter.