Just when we’d almost forgotten about the infamous landlord Fergus Wilson, he’s back in the news today with another gloomy announcement for renters. And this time it’s families that are feeling the brunt. He is planning to evict all families with more than two children and anyone living in a three generational household.
Back in January, Wilson committed to evicting all his tenants on Housing Benefits, regardless of whether or not they were in arrears. He argued that it made more sense for him to rent to non-Housing Benefit claimants because he could charge them more rent, and not have to interact with benefit bureaucracy. This time its families who are on the receiving end of his blanket ‘no-fault’ eviction policy. He has stated that renting to larger families makes him vulnerable to overcrowding, which can leave landlords open to prosecution.
It’s very easy to paint Wilson as an isolated big bad landlord figure (he doesn’t help himself). But, our research showed that that almost 4 in 10 (38%) landlords polled prefer not to rent to families with children. The real problem here is that any landlord can evict families, regardless of whether they are at fault, extremely easily. Families now make up a third of all private rented households. However, Wilson’s announcement is yet another stark reminder of how our broken rental market fails to provide renting families with the stability they need.
As long as you are outside the fixed period of your tenancy, which is typically only 6 or 12 months, landlords only have to give renters two months notice to leave. On top of that, landlords do not have to provide a reason why they are evicting the tenant, hence why it’s often referred to as a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice. It’s perhaps not surprising therefore, that the loss of a private rented sector tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness.
Knowing that you could be evicted, with little notice, at any time, is stressful for anyone. For families, the prospect of uprooting children from schools and losing networks providing support and childcare demonstrates the even more fragile position that renting families find themselves in.
In an overheated market landlords can be extremely fussy about who they decide to rent to, as our research clearly shows. This seriously limits the number of homes available for families, making the competition for them even higher, driving up rents and driving down conditions.
In the past year alone 69% of renting families have experienced at least one of the following problems: damp, mould, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestations and gas leaks. What’s more 60,000 families were threatened with eviction by their landlord simply for complaining about the conditions in their home.
This is why Shelter has been calling on politicians to make private rented homes a stable place to put down roots, and where families cannot be evicted for no good reason. As well as protections from revenge evictions for renters who complain about poor conditions, we need a new, longer-term renting contract to give the huge number of renting families greater stability.
To help join with Shelter to help fix private renting, you can sign our petition here