Termination of leases and eviction from properties was an issue being dealt with more frequently by Citizen’s Advice last year, with concerns also raised about feeling under pressure to accept increased rental rates.
Citizens Advice Guernsey’s research team collected private tenancy leases data throughout 2022, amidst a backdrop of the number of available private rental properties declining despite a slight increase in the number of available domestic properties.
“With fewer properties available to rent, and the cost of renting having increased by more than 35% over the past five years, the number of people contacting Citizens Advice with housing problems remains high,” the charity’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Annie Ashmead explained.
“With the shortage of available rental properties, the pressure on some private tenants appears to be considerable.
“At Citizens Advice we do appreciate that the number of clients who contact us regarding lease issues represent a small proportion of all those who rent and that most landlords treat their tenants fairly and with respect.
“However, this does not alter the fact that there is no legislation in place to protect tenants from those landlords who do not or in fact to protect landlords from damage and potential financial loss caused by tenants. The sooner there is some form of legislation in place to protect both tenants and landlords, the better.”
Pictured: Petty Debts appear to be increasingly less involved with property disputes because of arbitration clauses in contracts.
An experienced adviser to CAB noted that arbitration clauses are increasingly creeping into rental contracts, which means dispute resolution can take longer and cost more.
He said: “When I first started advising, any dispute between a landlord and their tenant was generally settled by negotiation, often with the help of the Guernsey Private Residential Landlords Association, or through Petty Debts claims.
“However, over time, more and more leases have had an arbitration clause inserted, often referring to the Guernsey Arbitration Law. This means that a case cannot go to Petty Debts without first going to arbitration. Arbitration involves paid professionals, often advocates, with all the costs that that entails. This growing trend is effectively barring most people from the process which Petty Debts were happy to judge upon.
“It could be viewed that the inclusion of an arbitration clauses is something which prevents fair resolution of disputes related to leases and is of little benefit to either the tenants or the landlords.”
Pictured: Mold in homes can cause serious health complications as spores are emitted into the air.
The condition of housing was also raised, echoing previous reports produced by CAB.
The adviser commented that “regrettably some people are having to live in sub-standard accommodation that can be injurious to their health.
“In one case a tenant had been prescribed strong antibiotics because they had ‘mould in their lungs’."
Environmental Health has recently published updated information setting out the responsibility of tenants and landlords. Ms Ashmead said sometimes tenants are reluctant to approach the authorities, since if the property is found to be unfit for habitation there are limited alternatives available.
Free, independent advice can be obtained from CAB on 242266, at their office on Bridge Avenue, St.Sampson, or online.