Why are private renters still waiting for reform?

Why are private renters still waiting for reform?

Private renters are sick of waiting for change. It’s been over 1,300 days since the government first promised to ban section 21 ’no fault’ evictions, but we’re still waiting for the Renters’ Reform Bill. In the meantime, too many of us have stories of moving from shoddy rental to shoddy rental, of unfair rent hikes, of landlords cutting corners, and of damp, dangerous conditions.

Even if we rent a home we love, we can still be evicted for no reason thanks to ‘no fault’ evictions, which leave us just eight weeks to find somewhere new to live. Finding a new home in this time is no small task. There is rampant discrimination against people on low incomes, and we have no way to find out if our new landlord is decent or if the home is safe in advance of signing the contract.

The looming threat of receiving a section 21 notice leaves many of us too scared to raise complaints in case we are evicted in retaliation. This fear is not unfounded: in 2018, research from Citizens Advice found that private renters in England who formally complain about issues such as damp and mould in their home have an almost one-in-two (46%) chance of being evicted within six months.

When you add soaring rents and spiralling living costs to the mix, it’s sadly unsurprising that many of us decide it’s preferable to put up with bad, often unsafe, conditions, instead of attempting to find another place we can afford to rent. More than two thirds (69%) of private renters say they would struggle to find somewhere suitable to live if they were evicted. Renters are at breaking point and we cannot afford to live in such an unregulated, unaffordable, unfair renting system any longer.

The private rented sector is clearly broken and in urgent need of reform. Fortunately, the government has a plan to tackle some of the fundamental injustices in the sector and rebalance the playing field between landlords and tenants. Last year, it published its proposals for the long-promised Renters’ Reform Bill, with commitments to:

  • scrap section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions
    The current system means that private renters can be evicted with just eight weeks’ notice, and without the landlord needing to provide a reason for the eviction. The government first promised to end the unfair practice of ‘no fault’ evictions in April 2019 – nearly four years ago. It’s an outdated practice that makes renting so precarious and should have been consigned to the history books long ago.  
  • introduce a register of landlords
    The government has promised to introduce a new property portal that will require landlords to register themselves in order to rent out properties. This will be important in professionalising the sector and driving up standards, as it will allow local authorities to take action against landlords who flout the law, as well as giving tenants better consumer choice when renting a property.
  • outlaw blanket bans against people who receive benefits
    Shelter has campaigned for years and proved that DSS discrimination is unlawful as it’s indirect discrimination. But right now, around two million renters are still at risk of facing income discrimination when looking for a home. The government has promised to ban the practice outright in the new bill.  

For the many of us stuck in the broken private rented system, the Renters’ Reform Bill can’t come soon enough. Ten million people privately rent in England and, of that number, a staggering 3.2 million have been forced to live in dangerous conditions because they were too afraid to complain to their landlord, or because they could not find another suitable, affordable place to rent.

A picture is worth a thousand words

The figures speak for themselves, but our stories are stronger than statistics. That’s why Shelter is asking private renters from across the country to share their experiences of renting – so that together, we can tell the government why the need for change is so urgent and why we cannot wait a minute more for the introduction of the Renters’ Reform Bill.

We’re creating a collage of our experiences of renting to send directly to Felicity Buchan MP, the Minister responsible for delivering the Renters’ Reform Bill. We’ll be telling her what it’s like to sleep in a bedroom covered in mould. We’ll be telling her how scary and demoralising it is to receive a ‘no fault’ eviction notice when we know how difficult it was to find a place we could afford last time. We’ll be telling her how exhausting it is to build a home for our children when we’ve been forced to move five times in five years.

Make your voice heard

If you’d like to get involved, you can use this new tool on our website to share a short renting horror story and a photo that summarises your experience, if you have one. You can also share one word that you’d like to include in the collage. Once finished, we’ll make sure Felicity Buchan will see our renting collage. Our stories and photos will clearly show that renters have had enough of waiting for change and that the government must bring forward the Renters’ Reform Bill.

Renting can often make us feel powerless, but together our voice is powerful. Join us today and demand that private renters get the security and rights that we deserve.