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The Great Housing Rip-Off - Join in the debate

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Eamonn Walsh | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

The Chancellor's announcement in last week's Spending Review of a 50% cut in the budget for social housing in England over the next four years - coupled with the continued difficulty of first-time buyers trying to secure mortgages - likely means more people relying on private rental accomodation.

Though many landlords provide a good service for tenants, Panorama has been investigating some who are cashing in on an affordable housing crisis by renting to the poor on housing benefit - but short-changing their tenants.

John Sweeney has been on the trail of some of the so-called 'rogue landlords' receiving large amounts of housing benefit money - by one estimate as much as £3.5bn is going to neglectful or bad private landlords.

Councils say they are doing all they can within the laws available to them - but the new housing minister has ruled out setting up a landlords' registry to keep track of those who are deemed substandard. Panorama examines a problem that seems not only unlikely to go away, but set to get much worse.

We welcome your comments on The Great Housing Rip-Off. Join in the debate here.


  • Comment number 1.

    Please leave your comment on The Great Housing Rip-Off on this forum.

  • Comment number 2.

    I would like to comment on this landlord issue.

    I live in Sunderland and now live in one of the sekected are's after 6 years of personally fighting for it!!!

    The housing minister is wrong [[[trouble is all gov. have ignored this Uncontrolled Industry.

    They have to use this selective Licessing all over ------BUT he gave a misleading message on how to get it.

    Will tell the story here if you want to know..

    LSAG long street action group -Hendon Sundrrland

  • Comment number 3.

    Your show proved to me that advice from previous tenants and their experiences should be made public and openly available for future tenants to read.

    After the ministers stopped the landlords registry to keep track of bad landlords and problem landlords, myself and two other people thought we should go ahead and build the register and created our rate a landlord website, we feel the uk should now review their landlord and let people avoid problem landlords whether you’re a social tenant or private tenant. Lets stop bad landlords.

  • Comment number 4.

    At least one featured landlord is in direct receipt of public funds for which they should be accountable - to the public.
    Perhaps the next episode could explain whether and how private landlords deliver accountability to us all as tax payers.
    All this programme has managed to achieve is an overwhelming case for social housing, if only to reduce the prevelance of parasitic private landlords.
    But who cares?

  • Comment number 5.

    Bad landlords give all landlords a bad name and do need stopping. I'm a landlord and have bad tenants. I'd like to see a programme about the other side of the coin too. I'm currently owed over £1,400 plus by tenants and will have to evict them soon if they still don't pay up. I've been considerate and as helpful as possible but I have a mortgage to pay on the property. I'm already out of pocket this year due to previous tenants who damaged the property to well over the amount taken in deposit and who then had the temerity to try and demand their deposit back. Whilst the dispute was going on I was unable to place another deposit on the same property and so had to let it without one so that I could at least attempt to cover the mortgage.
    Everyone seems keen to protect tenants from rogue landlords - which is good but now it is time to redress the balance and protect landlords from rogue tenants too.

  • Comment number 6.

    accountability of private landlords should be showed by tenants giving feedback, then public money would not be wasted ?

    i think we should all care, that public money is being spent to fund bad landlords and let down some of the poorest people in the uk.

    a rate a landlord website is needed as the above comment shows us !

  • Comment number 7.

    Well I watched the programe and I thought it was a little disappointing. I really did think that some more of us who were interviewed at the hop pole would have been shown and heard but really there was only two people who were. Yes the others had been shown that the houses had been visited but no more on tame estate. It was disappointing and Im sure not just me thinks this. Maybe another programe just like that but more focused on tame estate?

  • Comment number 8.

    Very disappointing one dimension reporting!

    Yes, as in any industry, there are 'rogue' people who take advantage!

    However, it is so easy to blame the Landlord, when 99% are simply trying to provide a good service.

    If we want to the point the finger at Landlords, then we should also point the finger at Councils & Tenants.

    Councils, as they do with most other local trades, should regulate through some type of accreditation process.
    This works well with my own local Council.

    Criminal Damage, ASBO, Fraud, Drugs, Non-Payment Of Bill's.
    No this is not a list of offences at the local magistrate, they are issues that most Landlords have to deal with on a regular basis.
    If there is a call for a Landlord register, then yes there should also be a register for Tenants.

  • Comment number 9.

    It’s about time someone launched a fresh assault on rogue landlords in receipt of public or private funds..

    I agree with David’s comments something needs to be done, “here here” to his approach! a rating sytem needs to be in place...

    “It may seem insensitive to ‘name and shame’ in this way, but it will have a bigger impact for all than a straight-forward financial penalty, demolishing the facade of respectability that they would have previously maintained.”

  • Comment number 10.

    I can only but agree with CTS66 If a LA has a good accreditation scheme in place those many landlords providing good decent properties could join to leave enforcement officers free to find (as there is no registration process) those landlords who don't care.
    Just a thought if landlords received benefit money then they could sign up to the accreditation scheme, if they didn't then they could be refused this avenue of income?

  • Comment number 11.

    I commented as living in a Selective Liccessing Area that took 6 years to achieve this result.
    The previous member discussed the Local Authority accredied schemes was a success BUT as I understand it is Volentry. therefore some[many] can hide away from these schemes.

    That is when the Government need to use their own Leglislation i.e
    Selective Licessing as part of the Housing Act 2004!!

    BUT this is not as easy as that the local authority has to have the will to request this from the Secratery of State BUT only after they can provide the neccesary evidence of need! The SoS then designate the specific area for the licessing to operate in ONLY.

    Yes as the program suggested they landlords then can still operate outside this area, even just buy there house for rent outside this area.

    That is the issues!!! [outside leglislation]

    BUT if operating in the designated area they [at last] have to operate within the leglislation/law.

  • Comment number 12.

    The danger of programmes like this is that it may be taken to imply that all private landlords are bad. The bad private landlords that exist are, in fact, a tiny minority. The programme did not set the true picture. The reality is that survey after survey has shown the lowest level of dissatisfaction with their landlord is among private tenants. Much social housing is badly maintained, with long waits for repairs. The idea of placing a moisture meter on the surface of a wall to detect damp is nonsense. All it does it detect surface damp, typically caused by condensation due to inadequate ventilation by the tenant.

    The overwhelming majority of all tenants in all tenures are happy with their accommodation. However, the most recent statistics from the English Housing Survey (2008-09) does show that 15 percent of tenants in the social housing sector were dissatisfied with their housing compared to a mere 2.5 percent in the private sector.

  • Comment number 13.

    This programme was not about good and bad private landlords and tenants. It was about bad landlords exploiting housing benefit at the expense of the people with housing need. This needs to be addressed through greater accountability, something the Minister seemed unable to assure us was available - discuss.

  • Comment number 14.

    This programme does a very biased job of the plight a small minority of bad landlord's impose on tenants on housing benefit. I'm very disappointed at the complete one sided nature of the investigation.
    I am a landlord and have been blighted recently by awful tenants on housing benefit. The house was damaged beyond the value of the deposit, majority of furniture was stolen and to top it off the tenant was in arrears by over £3000!
    The council has been utterly incompetent in assisting me to obtain direct payments and when they eventually did, they reverted back to paying the tenant without so much as even a letter informing me of the decision!
    I would be more than happy for a website which rates landlords, but equally one where bad tenants could (and should be named and shamed).

  • Comment number 15.

    Hang on, this programme was not about landlords (who have a voice and choose to make a living out of the private rented sector). It was about vulnerable people with housing need that do not have a voice or choice and that the system exploits and ignores.

  • Comment number 16.

    Some of the previous posts have asked for Landlords to be bought to account over Housing Benefits!

    Why is the same question not raised over Tenants?

    5 years ago the Labour Government decided to pay Housing Benefits straight to the Tenants!
    Many Landlords face a continuous struggle to obtain this money!

    I have had a Tenant who's Housing Benefit was blown on a night out for their birthday!
    When you approach the Council they advise its a matter between you and the Tenant!

    I don't hear anybody asking my Tenant to explain why they have spent Taxpayers money, which is supposed to help put a roof over her head, on booze!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Mmmmm Just whats happening here???-----------big Brother job???

    Tried to watch your program on Landlords on panorama again on web
    guess what you/they have pulled the plug we can't se it again WHY WHY .

    Lets have an explanation on this forum page !!!!

    Is it touching some nerves ?????

  • Comment number 18.

    Lets have an explanation on this forum page !!!!

    Is it touching some nerves ?????

    Come on Panorama lets have an explanation of why you pulled the plug on this programe on your web!!!!!

    By the way some of still use tape recordings !!!! yes we have a copy of the program Mr Shap's --------Want a copy


  • Comment number 19.

    The programme is available to watch as usual via iPlayer. It often takes a few hours for the automated system to make the programme available.
    The programme will then be able to watch for a year on the Panorama website.

  • Comment number 20.

    Interesting isn't it eddy ... just goes to show an online rating system for Landlords is really needed!

    rate or hate your landlord is one i have found seems to be very informative... for tenants claiming benifits & private tenants

    If the goverment cant be bothered got to admire the chaps who have!

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm in complete agreement with CTS66, changes by the previous government in the way housing benefit is paid has wreaked havoc in the system for both landlords and tenants.

    I have also suffered from tenant's who seem to think the money thats supposed to pay for a roof over their and their family's head, is some type of windfall and is there to be spent on flat screen tv's, sky tv or the latest mobile phone!

    Where is the outrage a these people who are also "taking taxpayers money" and spending it when it should be going to (in the vast majority of cases) decent and hard working (taxpaying) landlords who are trying to provide a service to people who are in need of housing and have been badly let down by the government through a lack of decent social housing.

  • Comment number 22.

    The way HB is paid is another programme. I think Panorama were showing that there are bad landlords out there, they are not regulated properly, and that the situation will no doubt get worse as tenants will not have security of tenure in the brave new world the Conservtives are creating (more like old Dickensian workhouse world)

  • Comment number 23.

    19. At 10:59am on 26 Oct 2010, BBC Panorama wrote:
    The programme is available to watch as usual via iPlayer. It often takes a few hours for the automated system to make the programme available.
    The programme will then be able to watch for a year on the Panorama website.

    Just checked it's NOT available [But why can we see a 2 min. snap NOT the rest??/]

    Selective Licessing!!

    There is a system but previous gov. gave it to Local Authority it even to apply to apply for, to SoS and then manage it,-cost money even if they see their area's going down the pan!!

    BUT with what this program has highlighted this Industry has to regulated by leglislation and it must be used all round the country.


  • Comment number 24.

    From Eddy

    Progame now available on I player -------------Thanks bbc

    must watch

  • Comment number 25.

    Its not only the private landlords, but also the biggest landlords are the council themselves, they too have a horrific history here in BARNET. We qualified for Housing, and first we were put into what the council calls temporary accommodation - which the council rent out from the private landlords, absolutely horrible conditions. We have the photos and videos. Then we were put into Barnet Council's Private Landlord's temporary property - very small 1 double room and one single room flat, with damp and mould, and we were charged £360.00 per WEEK! This the BARNET council claimed from Housing Benefit and they paid the landlord about £850.00 per month! We had write to MP, hire a private solicitors, to resolve disrepairs, and it was nothing short of chaos. We never knew who we were dealing with or who was really responsible at Barnet. Now we have been offered to move - to what they call regeneration property - these a high rise apartment blocks built in 50's and they are unfit to live in 2010 and ordered to be demolished, yet Barnet are moving people/families into those blocks, we don't believe they have any intention of moving them back into modern social housing.

  • Comment number 26.

    It is fine to complain about the condition of housing that is provided by the council and private landlords, but why not have a bit of ambition and get your own property and make it your home!

    It is easy to complain.

    All councils that allow properties to be let via there rental schemes are inspected and must meet certain criteria's. How are these properties allowed it be used. Is the council not at fault!

  • Comment number 27.

    Typo - accommodation ("has plenty of room for two Cs and two Ms")

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    I thought the Get Carter soundtrack was very witty but the programme felt weak without any cameras on the rogue landlords. Surely with a little ingenuity it is possible to doorstep these elusive rogues. Roger Cook managed it and all the BBC consumer shows seem to have no problem ambushing swindlers and disreputable characters.

  • Comment number 32.

    here we are again haveing a go at private landlords,its always their fault and never the tenant's,i am a private landlord and the sooner i can sell my properties the better,it isnt worth the hassle of renting,i will be more than happy to stick my money in a building society savings account that pays a meagre 3.5% than ever rent out again,my health and wellbeing are more important than looking after undeserving tenant's.

  • Comment number 33.

    Its disgusting that some people have to live in these conditions, however some people do not really help themselves(not paying rent when its given to them in housing benefit) so its no wonder they end up in this situation. I live in rented accommodation since getting divorced, thankfully not in the areas shown on this program. I receive help with my rent due to my low income and go without lots of things in order to pay my rent.

    I lived in Brighton for 4 years and noticed the rental prices from private landlords seem to be tied to whatever the Housing Benefit level was, due to a high level of people wanting to live there( I am sure this happens everywhere). I actually had to pay over £540 rent a month for a small studio flat, luckily I did have a good landlord who took care of his properties.

    I was a little annoyed to see a young mother and her son receiving £475 housing benefit hearing her boyfriend and father of the boy was in the army! probably getting up to £30,000 wages per year. Why doesn't he take care of them and get them a decent place for them to live. Also the young 17 year old girl where is the father of her child. It make me sick and so angry that many men do not take their responsibilities seriously, if they did I believe this country would be such a much better place to live, and so many people wouldn't have to claim so many benefits.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think I found a solution to all this mess that is the Housing Benefit and some private landlords taking advantage of it. I think the government should introduce a new Law in which if a private landlord can't keep its houses to a living standard the tenant does not have to pay any rent nor does the government until whatever the problem/s is/are sorted, and also while in that situation the landlord cannot evict the tenant either. That way all landlords would have to be good landlords and everyone could enjoy a good standard of housing. Because that way everyone would see where their rent money is being spent and the government wouldn't have to worry about shoddy landlord ripping the country off. Oh and before I forget they should also introduce some sort of Landlord Registry so that if any of those landlords that don't keep their houses to a standard should have their homes repossessed and banned from ever renting anywhere on these islands.

  • Comment number 35.

    I say let rogue landlords carry on in their ways and let the council foot the bill for updating, renovating and putting their houses in a decent state but there should be a price to be paid by them....Once the council put the property right then that property reverts to council ownership. Once rogue landlords start losing properties, and therefore money. they may start changing their ways. ALL landlords who allow tenants on housing benefits in properties should be subject to council inspection and if the council have to put things right then that house becomes the councils.. its a simple equation.

  • Comment number 36.

    Panorame is talking about tenants on housing benefits. Like everybody else why do they forget the worst victim of the recession- the private tenants ? Why no discussion on the plight of private tenants ? We work hard and have to fork out most part of it on rent. With rents increasing, wage decreasing its impossible to save up for a whopping deposit to buy in the current inflated housing market. So, we are pressed from both sides. House owners get protected by low interest rates, govt policies, cap on housing projects to keep their house values inflated, but helepless private tenants take all the hit. To top it, do you know with all the publicity about tenancy deposit schemes and all, landlords are still able to retain the whole deposit of couple of months' rent ... even just as cleaning bills. You might have no damage to house, regularly cleaned property and still they are able to retain the full deposit towards cleaning. And the laws are such you hardly can do anything about it.

    Buy a pint of milk from a supermarket at £1 and you are protected by consumer law and all sorts of things, but here so many people pay half of their total income every month and get no protection, no guarantee for service from anybody. And nobody seems to care, political or apolitical. At least a neutral body like BBC should not overlook these neglected victims of recession, who are the only people who did not contribute towards the recession in the first place.

  • Comment number 37.

    I very much sympathise with landlords who have been ripped off by dodgy tenants but I agree with those who fight for private tenants. I have been the victim of a rogue landlord whilst living in private housing stock. I was illegally evicted by him and it took two and a half years for Wandsworth Council to get a conviction (he fought that much). With all due respect to private landlords, I wish they would see that there are some appallingly bad apples in their orchard.


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