Figures released by Generation Rent today add to the growing body of evidence that the private rented sector is failing tenants and needs to be reformed. Based on an opinion poll from ComRes, Generation Rent has found that the cost of rents continues to hit too many, with 39% of those polled cutting back on heating due to the cost of rent and a third reducing their spending on food. Affordability also keeps people stuck in private renting when they want to leave. Two thirds of renters say that the main reason they rent is because they cannot afford to buy their own home.
Following recent reports from NUS, Shelter and Crisis, the figures also show that poor conditions continue to blight the lives of private tenants, despite the high cost of renting. Dampness within their home is ‘unacceptable’ for one in three private renters, yet these problems are often left unresolved by landlords, with 35% of renters saying their landlord is not particularly interested in their living conditions.
As 2014 figures place the private rented sector as the second largest housing tenure in England after home ownership, Generation Rent is calling for a broad set of reforms to improve the living situations of millions of private renters. Professional management needs to be introduced into the sector, with a national register of landlords and licensing of letting agents ensuring that renters can expect certain standards, wherever they are and whoever they rent from.
Connected to this must be the improvement in conditions across privately rented housing, where ultimately, Generation Rent is calling for a set of national minimum property standards that must be fulfilled before a property can be rented out. But renters also need security with these improved conditions, so any policy addressing the private rented sector must also include ways to establish longer-term tenancies. While people can still be evicted for no reason with only two months’ notice, private renting will never be the sustainable solution for people wanting to put down roots and become involved in their communities.
As today’s poll shows, though, private renting cannot be fixed without tackling affordability. The high level of rents will continue to affect people’s cost of living until a serious effort is made to build homes across all tenures, including long-term, permanently affordable privately rented housing.
To make these changes, we need to build a national movement that supports renters’ rights. So alongside our policy work, Generation Rent is supporting local renters’ groups to organise in their communities. Click here to find out more about starting a local group and here to sign up for our national campaigns.