Of the 23.4 million households on the 2011 UK census, 8.3 million (36%) were rented. One in five families rent, so for a large chunk of our society the question of whether we can expect the condition of rented accommodation to be acceptable and safe is important.
You may live in, or know someone that lives in a rented home. But imagine you ask your landlord to fix something, such as faulty wiring or a leaky roof. You would naturally expect them to address the problem without any issues, wouldn’t you? After all, that’s partly why you’re paying rent. But in reality you could find yourself without a place to live, just because you asked for a decent home. You would then be the victim of a revenge eviction, something that’s becoming all too common. A study by the charity Shelter found that an estimated 200,000 tenants across England have experienced this mistreatment in the past year. Of all private sector tenants across the nation, 2% have been evicted or served an eviction notice after complaining about their living conditions.
Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter, has witnessed the recent rise in revenge evictions, saying: “Calls to our helpline from renters are soaring and revenge evictions are becoming all too common. Private renting is close to crisis point: this can’t go on. No-one should lose their home for asking their landlord to fix a problem. The government has to protect England’s nine million renters from unfair evictions.”
The study also found that 8% of tenants were too scared of eviction to complain at all. In the past year, 41% of tenants have had to deal with mould in their homes, 25% with a leaking roof, and 16% with electrical hazards. The high demand for rental properties, with as many as 12 people competing for one room in some areas of the UK, has allowed landlords to be discriminating. The fact that the law doesn’t stop landlords evicting tenants for no reason means it could be more cost effective for them to boot out the people who are willing to complain, rather than spend money on refurbishment.
Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlord’s Association has responded to the study, claiming, “Shelter is once again, needlessly playing to people’s fears,” whilst also acknowledging, “there are landlords who should be rooted out of the sector.” But a government survey on English housing confirms the fact that the private rented sector has the highest proportion of non-decent homes in the country, as has been the case in previous years.
Shelter has started a campaign against revenge evictions called ‘9 million renters’. The campaign aims to help the nine million renters who have a one in three chance of renting a home that isn’t up to a decent standard, and who can be evicted by landlords for no reason and with no recourse. Currently, landlords can use a section 21 notice to evict tenants without any justification, which tenants can’t challenge.
Shelter is petitioning the government to put restrictions in place so tenants living in homes in bad condition can’t be evicted for complaining, a very reasonable concession, and one that Shelter is close to convincing the government of. The Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has emphasised the need for a fairer private rented sector, and is reviewing whether to change the law. You can sign the petition here.