Close to 6,300 private renters in the North East of England lodged formal complaints to their local council about their landlord between 2014 and 2016, it has been revealed.
A freedom of information request submitted to the Tyne and Wear authorities by local property campaigner Ajay Jagota shows that the five councils received a total of 6,297 complaints about the condition of their privately rented properties or the behaviour of their landlord during the three-year period.
Some 2,075 complaints were received in 2016, which although an increase of 3.4% from the 2,007 recorded in 2014, was actually a fall from the 2,215 complaints issued in 2015.
“To put these figures into context, every day in every local authority in Tyne and Wear at least one person complains about the condition of their rented home– yet only one rogue landlord has been convicted in three years,” said Jagota, the founder of KIS, a sales and letting firm.
Despite the high number of formal complaints, separate research shows that just one council – Sunderland – has brought a successful prosecution against a rogue landlord in the corresponding period.
The highest number of complaints was received in Newcastle, where complaints rose steadily from 1007 in 2014 to 1127 in 2016 – a rise of 8%.
Sunderland by contrast saw complaints fall from 509 in 2014 to 290 last year, Gateshead and North Tyneside both saw complaint numbers fall from 2014 to 2015 but rising again in 2016, leaving them 7% and 4% below 2014 levels.
South Tyneside council refused to supply the information, claiming although is holds the information it would take an officer 18 hours to retrieve it, what the authority describes as “substantial effort and disproportionate exercise of trawling”. The decision has been appealed.
“As both a resident of and business owner in South Tyneside I find their decision to refuse our request extraordinary,” said Jagota. “How can you admit that you hold some information but at the same time claim you don’t know where it is?”
With a general election under way, all the main political parties are making a pitch to voters who rent, but Jagota, who is also the head of replacement insurance solution Dlighted, an alternative to tenancy deposit schemes, fears that the proposed policies “are just tinkering around the edges when more profound reform is needed”.
He added: “It’s critical for all good operators in the private rented sector that the rogues are brought to task and the only way that can happen is that the local authority executes the powers invested in them and ensure they take action when complaints are made.”