New figures released by Shelter today show a worrying rise in complaints about rogue landlords at the very time the private rented sector sees its biggest growth on record.

Over the past twelve months the housing and homelessness charity has seen overall complaints about landlords increase by 23 per cent. Specific issues include complaints regarding shocking levels of dampness and disrepair which have risen by over forty per cent and complaints of harassment by private landlords which have risen by nearly a quarter. 

Meanwhile the number of households privately renting has hit 3.4 million, a massive 40 per cent rise over the past five years, due to a chronic shortage of social housing and millions being priced out of the housing market.

These figures raise serious questions about how rogue landlords are still able to operate freely, preying on the most vulnerable and leaving them to live in properties that could be a serious danger to their health and wellbeing.  While they represent only a minority of landlords, the charity is concerned by the sharp increase in complaints and the impact this is having on tenants’ lives.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The housing minister’s claim that ‘the vast majority of England’s three million private tenants are happy with the service they receive’ has been seriously thrown into question today. Our figures clearly show a worrying increase in the number of people seeking our help regarding problems with their landlord. The idea that just one rogue landlord could be harassing a family in their home is completely unacceptable and it’s shocking that the minister still refuses to tackle the issue.

“It’s frightening to see that complaints about bad landlords are increasing at such a rate, at the very time that renting a home is fast becoming the only option for thousands of families across this country.  It appears that rogue landlords are cashing in on this growing market.”

Government housing benefit cuts and changes to the homelessness safety net will push many more vulnerable families into the private rented sector. Shelter is concerned that the influx of people into the bottom end of the private rented sector will lead to an imbalance between supply and demand for properties. This could see some rogue landlords exploiting the lack of accommodation, with the most vulnerable tenants left with little choice of who to rent from.

Mr Robb continued: “With Government policy directing more vulnerable people towards the private rented sector, it seems entirely negligent of the housing minister to have not yet produced any clear commitment to clamp down on rogue landlords. It is imperative that the minister sits up and recognises the growth of this sector and his responsibility to 3.4 million households in this country.”

The charity is today urging the housing minister to produce a clear plan to tackle rogue landlords and show his commitment to private tenants by ensuring that all local authorities sign up to a minimum standard accreditation scheme. This is a set of standards relating to the running or condition of private rented accommodation which good landlords can sign up to, allowing people to spot the good landlord from the rogue.

Mr Robb added: “The minister must act now and work closely with all local authorities to ensure they use every weapon in their armoury to crack down on these unscrupulous operators. This will help guarantee that the growing population of private tenants get the protection they both need and deserve.

“We are asking people across the country to join our campaign to end the misery caused by rogue landlords and sign our petition at

Comedy actors Sean Lock, Oliver Chris and Mike Fielding are supporting Shelter’s campaign against rogue landlords in a new spoof film launched today. The film depicts a scene where a rogue landlord is showing prospective tenants around a grotty and dangerous property, oblivious to any problems it could pose to them. To view the film visit:

Notes to editors:

1. The increase in the number of complaints is based on Shelter cases received by local authority area.

2. Complaints specifically regarding dampness and disrepair in private properties has increased by 42%, and those concerning harassment by private landlords rose by 24% over the past twelve months. Shelter has also seen a 19 per cent increase in the number and complaints about unfair or unexpected rent rises.

3. Case studies available from press office

4. Private rented sector figures are taken from The English Housing Survey: Headline Report 2009-2010 (DCLG)

5. The housing minister Grant Shapps quote taken from announcement scrapping plans to regulate the private rented sector in June 2010:

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