Politicians will feel the fury of Britain’s renters
The rapid rise of Britain’s private rental sector seems to have flummoxed policymakers. Over a decade the number of people living in private rented accommodation has doubled to over 9 million, outstripping social tenancy to become the second largest form of tenure behind home ownership.
Despite this, private renting is poorly regulated and in many cases fails to meet the most basic needs of tenants. A flurry of research is painting a rapidly deteriorating picture of what it is like to live in private rented housing. A recent survey by the National Union of Students showed that two fifths of students have landlords who are happy for them to live with vermin.
Shelter and Crisis recently published a report highlighting the hideous conditions of people placed in private renting by councils due to homelessness. This reflected what the Nationwide Foundation found when they commissioned research into the plight of the most vulnerable private renters, which was the basis of their decision to fund our organisation, Generation Rent.
All of this is borne out by our recent ComRes poll which showed that costs as well as conditions are dragging people down. It showed that rents are now so high that a third of Britain’s 9 million private tenants are cutting back on food to pay their rents and two fifths are cutting back on heating. Far from renting being attractive, our poll showed that only 25 per cent of people do so by choice. Most people would prefer to buy if only they could get on the housing ladder and some would rather be in social housing.
We’re at a stage now where conditions are becoming Dickensian in nature and exploitation by landlords and letting agents is the norm. Opening a commercial kennel is more onerous than housing humans and still the landlord lobby campaigns for further deregulation.
We know where this ends, because Britain has had a large, unregulated private rental market before. It led to the rise of slum landlords like Peter Rachman (pictured below) , the intimidation and sometimes brutalisation of tenants, children and families living in absolute squalor, and ultimately the rise of renter movements, fighting back, sometimes through the use of rent strikes.
This is where Britain is heading, blindly abandoning a generation to misery and exploitation. We need the government to act now if this is not to be a reality. We don’t want to kill the private rented sector, we want a sustainable sector where people are treated decently and have the security to raise their families in peace and dignity – and yes, where landlords receive a fair return on their investment.
This can be delivered simply and cheaply with a national register of landlords and the licensing of letting agents to deter the crooks, minimum standards so that landlords can’t cut corners and profiteer from tenants and extended security of tenure to provide stability. We also want a commitment to increase radically the number of affordable homes built each year.
It is perverse that a large chunk of the £24 billion Housing Benefit bill goes to private landlords, with no checks on what the government is getting for this money, yet at the same time a measly £1bn is spent on building affordable homes, when building more would cut the Housing Benefit spend.
“Perverse” characterises much of the political approach to the private rented sector. And politicians are wrong if they think 9 million renters will accept this meekly at the election next year.Tagged in: landlords, Peter Rachman, renter
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