This is how the government can fix renting

This is how the government can fix renting

In the last 20 years, the number of people living in privately rented homes in England has doubled. But only a handful of laws have been brought in to protect them since the 1980s – and none of them significant enough to provide private renters with the safe homes they deserve. The system is broken, outdated, and needs fixing.

With 11 million people now renting from a private landlord, the government must commit to long-term reform.

Security in their homes

Renters need to feel safe in their homes, to put down roots, to stand up for their rights. Renters currently live in fear of eviction – worried to ask for repairs, scared to complain in case they annoy their landlord. Being evicted from a private rented tenancy is one of the leading causes of homelessness. On an individual level, this means anything from living with low-level anxiety about losing your home, to living in seriously dangerous conditions. Renters worry that they’re going to be kicked out of their home at any time – and as a result, they feel unable to stand up to bad landlords and enforce their rights when they’re facing disrepair

To rebalance this relationship, renters must be given the security they need in order to make valid complaints without the threat of losing their homes.

So renters feel more secure, we need:

  • section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions to be scrapped
  • landlords to prove they have a legitimate reason for evicting a tenant
  • renters to have a period of protection when their landlord can’t evict them on the grounds of a landlord need – like selling or moving in

Regulation of landlords and letting agents

England’s private rented system is woefully under (and inconsistently) regulated. With properties in high demand, unaffordable rents commonplace and a lack of protection from eviction, landlords hold all the power. As a result, too many of them rent out properties in bad, often unsafe conditions.

A lack of a clear, national regulatory framework leaves renters and councils scrabbling to enforce the law – even when 45% of renters have been victims of illegal acts by their landlords or agents and 25% of homes in the private rented sector fail the Decent Homes Standard.

For better regulation across the sector we need:

  • A national landlord register to be introduced. Landlords must register their properties on a central database, along with essential safety information proving they have met their legal requirements
  • The register to be a public database, giving renters the ability to make an informed choice about the landlord they rent from and creating an incentive for landlords to comply with their legal requirements
  • The government to bring in new laws to regulate letting agents

Getting justice

People need to get help when things go wrong. But too often, renters don’t know where to turn when they’ve got a crisis in their home, and sometimes the places they turn to can’t support them. Councils are there to help private renters – but their budgets for private-sector enforcement have been slashed by 44% in the past 10 years.

Courts are under-resourced and overstretched, and a lack of free and early legal advice makes navigating the system extremely difficult for renters who are already in a stressful situation. Judges rubber-stamp section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions because renters don’t have an automatic right to a hearing in unfair ‘accelerated’ procedures. Combined with a lack of legal advice, renters are being kicked out when they should have every right to stay.

So renters have somewhere to turn when things go wrong, we need:

  • local authorities to be properly resourced so that they can employ an adequate number of Environmental Health Officers and Tenancy Relation Officers to drive up standards in the private rented sector
  • courts to be adequately funded so that they can deal with housing cases in an effective and timely manner – including for cases where a renter wants to challenge an unfair rent increase
  • renters to have a guaranteed right to respond to an eviction notice; accelerated procedures have no place in a post-section 21 world

If you agree that the government must prioritise the Renters’ Reform Bill so that renters can begin to exercise their rights without fear of eviction, sign our petition today.