Some Scottish landlords are not rectifying problems in their properties despite being legally required to do so, according to new research.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s (CAS) In A Fix report, published on Thursday, has revealed that on 5,600 occasions from 2021 to 2023, their own advisers had to issue advice on repairs, accounting for 10% of all housing advice given by CAS during the two years.
A third of people who needed advice from the bureau also asked for help with other matters, such as financial issues including benefits, debts, energy and broadband bills and often asked for charitable support.
The paper included a number of anonymous case studies, where tenants who were clients of CAS reported a number of issues with their rental property.
The research drew from cases in the private and social rented sector, but also included cases of owner-occupiers.
It highlighted cases where people were left without heating, hot water, other essentials, or living with damp, mould and vermin.
Some tenants said they had experienced mental and physical problems as a result, with some stating they were scared to report their repair needs for fear of eviction. Others alleged they had already been threatened with eviction for raising the issues.
One woman living in the east of Scotland said she moved back into her property following a flood.
Mould began growing up the walls which the client, who has multiple health issues, tried to remove themselves but failed, as the appliances kept tripping an electrical fuse in the property.
CAS said the client was wrongly told by their local authority that she could not access the Scottish Welfare Fund to help her afford to have the issue dealt with professionally.
Her local council allegedly told her this was because she had already accessed the fund once.
She later discovered an infestation of mice at the property.
Another person told CAS that her housing estate was so overrun with rats that she could not let her children out to play.
One person from the east of Scotland told CAS their property had a leaking roof, asbestos and an infestation of vermin.
Despite reporting this to their local council, they said no action had been taken and as a result, they could not have their children round to stay as the property was in such a poor state.
Publishing the report, CAS spokesperson Aoife Deery said: “This research shines a light on the state of housing repairs and maintenance in Scotland, and much of it is not a pretty sight.
“We already know that rented sector tenants are often financially vulnerable. To find that they are also having problems getting basic repairs done is a real concern, and even worse is that some of them fear losing their home if they request the repair.
“When you rent a property you sign a tenancy, which includes the rights and responsibilities of the tenants, but also the obligation on landlords to make sure the property meets the repairing standard.
“This is a legal requirement, not an option they can choose to neglect.”
She added: “It’s important to say that most landlords in Scotland do meet their commitments well.
“It’s in the nature of our service that we only see the cases where things have gone wrong.
“But the numbers of cases we’re seeing is very worrying.
“The good landlords are being let down by the bad ones, who are bringing the whole sector into disrepute.
“Our research exposes a level of failure in the system that is unacceptable. It is simply not right that some of the people who have approached us for advice have had to live in frankly substandard accommodation.”
The report made a number of recommendations to the Scottish Government, stating it should work with councils to invoke harsher penalties for landlords attempting to evict tenants for reporting a repair.
It also said the Scottish Government should look at ways they could expand funding for local authorities, develop insurance options for private landlords so they may deal with repairs, and finally to review its current codes of practice for letting agents.
The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.
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