Growing up renting

Imagine living in nine different homes before the age of eight. Then picture attending two different schools in the first three years of your education with another school move looming because your landlord has defaulted on his mortgage and there is nowhere else to rent by your school. This is the reality for the daughter of one family Shelter has spoken to and this isn’t out of choice.

A new survey of 4,000 private renters, out today, shows quite starkly how the rental market is affecting family life. One in five families now rent and government research shows that renting families are nine times as likely to have moved in the last year as families who own their homes.

The results show that not only is moving expensive but it has a negative impact on children’s education and well-being:


The survey has also highlighted that families are struggling financially and that constant moves push families further into debt. More than one in five families have been forced to borrow money to pay their deposit and/or rent in advance. Thirty per cent of families in our survey had paid fees on top of this. The average amount paid out was £2316 – equivalent of around the average monthly income of private renters. A study by the Resolution Foundation found that even on one bed properties average fees, deposits and rent in advance came to £2166 in London.

One of the most striking findings is about why families rent. Sixty per cent of families rent because they cannot afford a home of their own. A persistent myth used to support the status quo – and one that refuses to die – is that renters won’t be there for long and like the freedom and choice renting gives them. Yet only 9 per cent of families stated they like the ‘freedom and flexibility’ renting brings – and this is only 14 per cent among households with no children.


With 43 per cent of families expecting to be renting for the next ten years and nearly one in four renters saying they do not or would not feel comfortable bringing their children up in private rented home, something needs to change. Families need a better deal from renting. Which is why Shelter is proposing the Stable Rental contract. This would give renters the option to stay in their tenancy for up to five years and guarantee that rents would rise by no more than CPI during this time – and 62 per cent of families support this.

It’s high time politicians improved life for the growing number of families who rent. This May, as part of its 9 million renters campaign, Shelter is calling for changes to the way renting works – The government must make renting better for the 1.3 million renting families in England.


  1. As the letting agent is working on behalf for both parties, the owner and the tenant, are they not suffering from a conflict of interest from the very start.
    My experiences of renting have ranged from very good to extremely bad.
    My last property turned out to be extremely damp. The letting agents had redecorated to camouflage the problem. On the form I was given it was described as discolouration at the top of the chimney breast. Shortly after I moved in, after some heavy rain, the damp became apparent. I complained but no action was taken. I imagine
    when I moved out the decorators moved in again and again hid the problem.

    I would like to see a “log book” for all rented property where a tenant can note any problem that they have encountered. The owner then would have the opportunity to respond by either refuting the claim or explaining the steps that have been taken to rectify the problem. I would also like to make it a legal obligation of the letting agent to point out any problems that they have been made aware of.

    1. I wish there was a *like* button so I could like your comment, Steve Evans! All too true and a problem I have encountered many times myself, especially regarding damp/poor ventilation and paint cover-ups. More honesty is needed, a compulsory log book viewable by prospective tenants is a brilliant idea. If the landlord doesn’t respond, the tenant should also be legally within their rights to arrange for work to be done to rectify the problem and bill the landlord…that’d get the landlords motivated to do it themselves!

      1. Thanks for the “like”. But I think it should be the agent’s responsibility to enforce the system. After all, we are their clients too. They should have a legal responsibility to protect us as well as ensuring the owners have suitable tenants.
        Don’t agents have a reponsibility to disclose any faults when selling a house?
        Because of finding faults in properties I have had to spend several hundred pounds in moving costs until I find the one that is as it ought to be,
        I don’t think enabling the tenant to arrange necessary work would work – getting quotes, making sure one wasn’t employing a “cowboy builder” and then paying them and trying to get reimbursment could prove to be a minefield. But, making the landlord/agent pay for my moving costs would be a step in the right direction and then allowing me to foreshorten the lease without financial loss and without effecting my referencing would be an added extra.

        1. Yes, the agents should have a responibility to disclose faults, definitely however, it is the landlord’s property and it is up to him to fix them, he is ultimately resposible for the property and his tenants, even if he does work through an agent. Often all the agent can do is pass on a message to the landlord if a tenant complains and keep bugging him till he does something. I wasn’t meaning that a tenant should pay for

          work done and ask for reimbursement, I meant that if a landlord does nothing and a property is in obvious need of repair, it would be a good system if the tenant could arrange for the work to be done (with an Agent-approved contractor) and then the contractor sends the bill directly to the landlord. Either that or the Agents themselves should arrange for the work to be done and bill the landlord. As it stands, often the agents do not have the power to arrange for the work to be done, they can only contact the landlord and let him know, unless he has given them full authority over the property. Some landlords do this, but many don’t as it costs them more in agency fees. One route that can be taken is filing for social housing (even if you don’t want social housing) one of the questions on the form asks if there is anything seriously wrong with your current property, ie disrepair/damp. They then send an inspector out and the first course of action they take is to demand that the landlord to fix the problem.

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