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Tenants 'live in fear of eviction'

Thousands of private tenants are continuing to live in poor housing because they fear their landlords may evict them if they complain, a new report has claimed.

A study by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) claims that up to one million could be affected in the absence of a law to prevent eviction in such cases.

The charity's estimate is based on government figures concerning the number of individuals living in substandard private rented accommodation.

According to the CAB's report, entitled The Tenant's Dilemma, many of those who rent poor housing are reluctant to ask their landlords to fund necessary repairs because they fear they may be evicted as a result.

The study warns that the practice - known as retaliatory eviction - is able to take place because, unlike other countries, the UK does not have a law to ban such behaviour.

CAB says that private landlords are subsequently able to use section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to end assured shorthold tenancy agreements without needing to provide a reason to those who rent property from them.

The charity, which says that those on low incomes are most at risk of being exploited by rogue landlords, is now calling for new legislation to protect tenants from being evicted if they complain about the condition of their accommodation.

A survey of 129 environmental health officers and tenancy relations officers conducted as part of the CAB report appears to show support for such a move, with 98 per cent of respondents agreeing that legislative changes were needed.

Of those questioned, almost half said that in their experience people were often deterred from using help offered by housing officials because they didn't want to jeopardise their tenancies.

Merseyside CAB worker Debbie Crew, the author of the report, said she first became aware of the problem after a seriously ill woman she tried to help declined to press her landlord to carry out necessary safety repairs on her damp and cold house because she feared she would be evicted.

Commenting on the report CAB chief executive David Harker said: "Everyone should have the right to live in a safe and decent home, and a change in the law would end the misery endured by many vulnerable people who are too afraid to complain."

Responding to the study a spokesman for the National Landlords Association stressed that while there were rogue landlords, it was not in their interest to behave in such a way.

"I would be interested to see how much evidence the Citizens Advice Bureau has about this," spokesman Simon Gordon told Associated Newspapers.

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