Research conducted by Generation Rent has revealed shocking discrimination towards minority ethnic communities while navigating the private rental market.
The initial findings, from a survey conducted with 105 private renters, highlight the many inequalities, both individual and structural, which affect people who identify as minority ethnic.
Please note: All participant names have been changed to protect their identity.
- 38% of minority ethnic respondents had been threatened with an eviction compared to 28% of white British or Irish respondents.
- 19% of minority ethnic respondents had been threatened with court action by their landlord or letting agent compared to 8% of white British or Irish respondents.
- 100% of white British or Irish respondents had received a written tenancy agreement at the start of their last tenancy, but only 94% of minority ethnic respondents had. This dropped even further to 84% amongst Black respondents.
- Minority ethnic respondents were more than twice as likely to have experienced faulty electrics than white British or Irish respondents.
- Of those who had reported their most recent repair issue to their landlord, minority ethnic respondents were 17% more likely than white British or Irish respondents to report that their landlord had NOT put the maintenance issue right.
The experiences of minority ethnic private renters reveal a deeply polarised market. Some can access a professional and qualified part of the sector, with decent homes and qualified landlords and letting agents. However, overall, minority ethnic groups are disproportionately subjected to sub-standard homes, rented out by amateurish or even criminal individuals, unaware of or apathetic to their responsibilities.
Interpersonal and targeted discrimination
Tenancy applications emerged as one clear indicator of this targeted discrimination, with qualitative data revealing the sheer quantity of applications minority ethnic renters must submit before granted a property.
Noah, a respondent who identified as Mixed white and Black Caribbean explained: “It took more than 80 viewing applications, 25 in-person viewings, and 20 tenancy applications over a agreement.”
Cameron, a focus group participant who identified as Mixed white and Black Caribbean said: “There’s so many extra barriers, I’m at least blessed with the fact that like I’ve got a pretty European sounding name where, on paper, I’m not going to be immediately like skimmed off by a racist landlord. But then it gets to a point where me or my family we arrive at a viewing. And you can usually tell like that immediate reaction, the body language.”
Finally, Brianna, another focus group participant meanwhile described her experience: “I’m earning over £36,000 per annum. Well, apparently that’s still not good enough to get somewhere… They’re now asking for a guarantor. And I’ve been to see more than 20 properties and I think most of them as soon as they see that you’re Black, and I’m from a Jamaican background, they don’t want to rent, I’m not sure why. So, I’ve been struggling.”
Importantly however, this form of discrimination was still often characterised as subtle and insidious. As one interview participant, Durra, who identified as Mixed white and Black African explained: “I just think, as with most things to do with racism in this country, it’s not overt, that is something that we have to deal with. You might not get overtly targeted, but the way that you’re treated is going to be different from a white family.”
Lack of access to documents minority ethnic renters are entitled to
Minority ethnic and lower-income respondents were more likely to report that their landlord or letting agent had not given them documents they are legally entitled to.
100% of white British or Irish respondents had received a written tenancy agreement at the start of their last tenancy, but only 94% of minority ethnic respondents had. This dropped even further to 84% amongst Black respondents.
76% of white British or Irish respondents received information on where their deposit was protected, compared to 61% of minority ethnic respondents. Asian respondents were especially unlikely to receive this, with only 55% being given deposit protection information.
28% of minority ethnic respondents had received a Government How to Rent guide compared to 40% of white British or Irish respondents.
Most concerningly of all, while none of the white British or Irish respondents reported that they had not received any of the documents they are entitled to, 4% of minority ethnic respondents reported this. With 1 in 10 of all Black respondents stating that they had not received any of the six documents at the beginning of their tenancy.
The fact that many minority ethnic renters do not even receive a written tenancy agreement, indicates that the market available to lower-income, minority ethnic groups is often characterised by informal or casual arrangements between landlord and tenant. Such arrangements are extremely beneficial to landlords who are not seeking to let out good quality, stable homes to renters.
As one respondent, Olivia, who identified as Black British, said: “Renting from a friend can have consequences especially if no signed tenancy agreement… Now at age 60, am homeless and struggling to find a home of my own on a min wage and limited hours, which has meant a deep dip into my savings to get by on Airbnb until I can finally get myself official rented accommodation.”
Poor standards and prevalent disrepair in minority ethnic renter households
Income emerged as a key factor in the likelihood of respondents experiencing repair and maintenance issues in general, meanwhile ethnicity was a key factor in the likelihood of respondents experiencing the most dangerous repair issues.
Mould and damp in their current tenancy affected minority ethnic and white British or Irish to a similar degree. Meanwhile, respondents with a personal income of under £15,000 were 39% more likely to have experienced mould or damp compared to those with a personal income of £30,000 or over.
Minority ethnic respondents (29%) were over twice as likely to have experienced faulty electrics than white British or Irish respondents. Asian respondents were especially likely to report faulty electrics, with nearly a third (32%) doing so.
Meanwhile, minority ethnic respondents were 50% more likely to report experiencing inadequate fire precautions than white British or Irish respondents. Shockingly, nearly 1 in 4 (24%) of Black respondents reported experiencing this in their current tenancy.
Minority ethnic respondents repeatedly described severe repair issues and extremely poor conditions. Harper, who identified as Mixed white and Black Caribbean, said: “Flat is illegal regarding electrics and fire safety at the minimum. Depressed and scared as no family and nowhere to go.”
Minority ethnic respondents were also 17% more likely to report that their landlord had not put their most recent maintenance issue right. This was especially a problem amongst Asian respondents, who were 51% more likely than their white British or Irish counterparts to say that the landlord or letting agent had not fixed the issue.
Renters often articulated their fears of complaining to their landlords. Sarah, who identified as any other dual heritage background, said: “I worry about complaining about my landlord, because he could kick me out!”
Others meanwhile identified other dangers. Kai, who identified as any other Asian background, said: “Extremely poor standard of property, many issues that they refused to repair and then tried to take from our deposit.”
Abdul, who identified as Bangladeshi, said: “Two separate landlords made it clear at the start of the tenancy that if I raise too many maintenance requests, they will raise the rent significantly upon contract renewal.”
Exploitative and illegal treatment from landlords and letting agents
Minority ethnic respondents were significantly more likely to have been threatened with several legal and illegal actions by landlords or letting agents, as were lower-income respondents.
38% of minority ethnic respondents had been threatened with an eviction compared to 28% of white British and Irish respondents. This rose even higher amonst certain groups, 41% of Asian respondents and 48% of Black respondents reported that they had been threatened with an eviction.
22% of minority ethnic respondents had been threatened with an unaffordable rent increase, compared to 16% of white British or Irish respondents.
19% of minority ethnic respondents had been threatened with court action by their landlord or letting agent compared to 8% of white British or Irish respondents.
Many of the minority ethnic respondents pointed to a culture of landlords and letting agents avoiding or evading their responsibilities by threatening their tenants, especially with evictions and rent increases. Aaron, who identified as Black British, said: “Threats, unsociable behaviour, blame and money seem to be the business that landlords and letting agents are in and no one is making them have properties and rooms up to a standard of living and safety before someone rents.”
Rising rents and other costs a strain on minority ethnic renters
There were early indications of the cost-of-living crisis impacting minority ethnic and lower-income renters disproportionately.
37% of minority ethnic respondents said that they were struggling “a lot” more to pay the rent at the time of completing the survey than they had previously. This compared to 24% of white British or Irish respondents.
Minority ethnic respondents said that, on average, their rents had increased by £130.69 per month and their energy bills by £104.38 per month in the last 6 months before taking the survey. Their white British or Irish counterparts reported monthly rent increases of £86.75 and energy bill increases of £59.44 in the same period.
One respondent, Maya, who identified as Indian, commented: “Trying to rent in a place where my community and workplace is, is so difficult. Rents are sky high and even though I make an average salary of 25k, half of that goes on rent to a place that isn’t even that nice to live in.”
What needs to happen?
The government must:
- Bring in a Renters’ Reform Bill without further delay, which works to effectively protect marginalised private renters.
- Provide greater support for marginalised renters by raising Local Housing Allowance, scrapping the benefits cap, and increasing Discretionary Housing Payments funding to local authorities.
- Increase local authorities’ budgets to support regulatory and enforcement functions in local authorities.
What are our next steps?
The initial findings from this survey are the beginnings of our research into the experiences of marginalised and racialised groups – including minority ethnic communities and migrant private renters. We are working to continue and expand this research in our fight to end housing inequality and discrimination.
Read the full report here.
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