I watched Jon Snow’s Dispatches investigation on Monday night into rougue private landlords and was surprised to see the extent of the malpractice that was uncovered (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-96/episode-1).
He touched on many of the legal issues but I felt that the underlying point that he made was that the private rented market was not suitable for the types of vulnerable housing benefit tenants that were shown on the programme. The law is there to protect tenants and there are already legal remedies available for nearly all of the issues shown. The real problem is that access to justice for those people is limited either by their lack of financial resources, immigration status or knowledge of their rights.
I have written a more detailed article for the SA Law website, which can be seen here: http://www.salaw.com/publications/articles/dispatches-landlords-from-hell.html
I generally am instructed by private landlords and not tenants (and by reputable landlords at that). Even those tenants who are not “vulnerable” people are rarely in the financial position to pursue disrepair claims against landlords. The ability of solicitors to offer conditional fee agreements to mitigate against the cashflow issues of bringing such proceedings looks likely to be severely fettered if not extinguished by the upcoming changes to litigation funding.
The practical obstacles for tenants will therefore remain, irrespective of the fact the law is there to help against such rogue landlords.