Yesterday I was asked a surprisingly difficult question. I was asked what I thought of charities and local authorities setting up “ethical” letting agencies. The fact is I haven’t given huge amounts of thought to it – though our office is maintaining a watching brief on their activities and seeing what can be learnt.
So I had to retreat to an instinctive (and unpopular) no. It seems inconceivably that the state or non-profit sector could or should compete in this space cost effectively. We’re glad they do so as they are a rare respite for people who are routinely exploited, but on being scrutinised on the issue, I just couldn’t see how they could be scaled to have a beneficial impact for millions of people.
I have had a think now, and while I did so fully prepared to explain why I had been wrong and have changed my mind, I haven’t. I really don’t think such projects are a solution to the letting agency problem. But as a representative of a tenant advocacy group, this does bear some explaining.
Would you like to take control of your area and create permanently affordable homes?
The Community Land Trust Network, supported by the Oak Foundation, is offering 20 grants of up to £10,000 each to support the set up or development of new CLTs in urban areas. CLTs are volunteer-led, community-run non-profit organisations that develop permanently affordable homes, workspaces or other land-based assets in their area. In addition to the cash grant, the CLT Network is also offering a package of training, advice and other support to the 20 winners.
Nearly half of private renters feel they have been ripped off by their landlord or letting agent, according to a poll commissioned by Ocean Finance (reported by Mortgage Introducer).
The biggest problem, cited by around half of unhappy renters, was the delay – or, indeed, complete failure – to get repairs carried out. This was followed by withholding of the deposit at the end of the tenancy (37%), or making unreasonable deductions from it (25%). Unreasonable rent rises and rip-off admin fees at the start of the tenancy affected around 23% of respondents.
These findings support work Generation Rent is already doing to improve the lives of renters. Only yesterday we published a consultation on new ways to help tenants recover their deposits.
We are also calling on politicians to strengthen tenants’ rights when requesting repairs by protecting them from revenge evictions. Our proposals for a long term tenancy would ensure that landlords couldn’t impose inflation-busting rent increases, while we argue that letting agents – who work for landlords – should not be able to pass on fees to tenants. Further information is in our Renters Manifesto.
In June, the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a new guide for private rented sector tenants titled How to rent: the checklist for renting in England. With this guide the government want to give the country’s 9 million tenants access to understandable information for renting property in England.
A recent government update on the UK’s benefit system revealed that five million people are claiming housing benefit. It’s therefore of no surprise that comments by the previous Minister of Housing, Kris Hopkins, regarding renting housing while receiving this benefit enraged and worried many, including MPs. In a Panorama documentary aired last month, Hopkins described the landlord’s right to evict those on benefits as “perfectly legitimate”, sparking fury amongst those who utilise this country’s financial support system. However, was Hopkins right? Is the tenancy completely dependent on the wishes of the landlord? Or, is this yet another case of discrimination against those who aren’t rich enough to be heard?
The Let Property Campaign, HMRC’s initiative on tax in the private rented sector, is stepping up its work to ensure private landlords pay the full tax on their rental income.
Generation Rent today launches a discussion paper on reforming tenancy deposit protection, as another scandal emerges around a criminal letting agent that fraudulently used renters’ money that was ‚Äòprotected’ under an insurance-based scheme.
The coalition always seem very keen to look at what’s happening in Sweden and see what we could all learn from how they operate. Free schools, equality and healthcare are all models that have been viewed by jealous eyes in Westminster of how to do the right thing affordably. David Cameron himself is a close friend of the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
The one model that has never been mentioned in the UK politics debate is the Swedish housing model.
I have lived here in Sweden for three years now and I have discussed housing & renting with many Swedes whose eyebrows rise when I explain to them how the UK private rental sector works and the sums of cash involved.
I also have experienced first hand how housing works here and there are some startling rules that govern both buying and renting homes, I’m not certain if it’s a deliberate ploy to keep prices in check or simply just the “Swedish” way.
Have you ever delayed getting a landlord to maintain your home because it’s not worth the bother? Have you ever felt they’ll just string you along or worse, evict you as a trouble maker? Well that could soon be over.
MP Sarah Teather has tabled a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament that will outlaw so-called revenge evictions.
The truth is that only the worst landlords will boot a tenant over a maintenance issue, but you don’t know if you’re one of the unlucky ones until you make that complaint. The behaviour of a small number of dodgy landlords creates a very real fear for millions of tenants.
Write to your MP now to demand they support this Bill
The government insists that it’s doing all it can to end the housing crisis by ramping up the rate of house building. So far it’s managed a modest bump, but earlier this week, we learned that it’s forecasting another dip in 2014/15.
At a time when we need to double house building to keep rents and house prices affordable, to think that the government could allow a fall like this is staggering.
The Labour Party is calling a debate on the issue in Parliament next Wednesday, 9th July, to examine what has gone wrong and what can be done to boost supply.