Generation Rent has been working with the grass-roots organisation Aspire and Succeed to research and advocate for the private renters in the ward of Lozells in inner-city Birmingham.
The research, launched today, sheds a light on the experiences of local private renters, especially from a migrant and Bangladeshi background.
The vast majority of respondents did not receive the documents they were legally entitled to at the beginning of their tenancy.
- 8% of respondents did not receive a written tenancy agreement from their landlord
- Just 6% received information on where their deposit was protected
- 2% received an Electrical Safety Certificate
- Not a single respondent stated that they had received their Help to Rent Guide or gas safety certificate from their landlord or letting agent.
Respondents reported a variety of repair and maintenance issues in their homes.
- Over half (55%) of respondents indicated that they had experienced mould or damp in their home
- 43% reported that they had experienced infestations in their home
- 24% had experienced issues with poor security, such as broken doors and windows
- Almost half (49%) of all respondents reported that they had found it challenging to get their landlord or letting agent to carry out repairs in their home
There was also a widespread issue in finding available and affordable properties locally, especially amidst the rising cost-of-living and rising rents in the area. Participants discussed their need to stay locally, with their community and support networks, and how this often meant they were forced to endure poor standards and treatment.
- Over 9 in 10 respondents (93%) reported that they had struggled to find somewhere affordable to rent locally in their area
- 4 in 5 respondents reported that they had found it more difficult to pay their rent than usual in the last few months of completing the survey
- Over a quarter of the respondents (26%) stated that they had been threatened with an unaffordable rent increase
There was a wide-spread lack of awareness from respondents in where they could go for support or information in renting or tenancy issues.
- Almost 2 in 5 (39%) respondents indicated that they would only go to their landlord or letting agent and would not go to other sources for information and support
- Almost 1 in 10 (8%) said that they did not know where they would go for help and support
As well as a survey, Generation Rent and Aspire and Succeed also conducted one to one interviews with local private renters. These interviews revealed much about the realities of renting in such deprived areas such as Lozells.
The lack of availability of affordable properties meant that many local private renters were being forced to endure poor standards and landlords and letting agents who did not fulfil their responsibilities.
Participant 1’s interpreter said: “They have been looking [for another property] but they can’t find anything local, because the child is in the school, and they don’t want to go anywhere far, or they’ll have to travel on the bus – they don’t have a car. Because of the school issue, the child has settled in school, they struggle to find anywhere local. And her husband, he works, where he works, it’s easier for him to go from that property.”
There were widespread worries surrounding the rise of rents, energy bills and food prices. Respondents were finding it increasingly difficult to keep themselves fed and their homes warm, with disrepair making it significantly more difficult for tenants to warm their homes.
Participant 11’s interpreter explained: “There have been times when the electricity’s gone and they haven’t really had the funds to put money on the [pre-payment] card… She suffers from depression, and her housing situation doesn’t help. She’s worried about the financial situation at the moment, she worries, if it gets worse, how she’s going to cope.”
Predatory and exploitative behaviour was endemic in Lozells’ private rented sector (PRS), with many participants expressing a sense of hopelessness, stress, and anxiety around their housing situation. Many were unable to feel safe and secure in their homes, under constant threats of eviction from their landlords if they complained about repair issues or questioned rent increases.
Participant 5’s interpreter explained: “[The landlord] keeps increasing the rent, and she knows that every couple of months he’s going to increase it. And if they refuse, he’ll just kick them out.”
Repairs and standards
The vast majority of the participants described issues with poor standards in their privately rented homes.
Participant 1 had been privately renting in her current property for six years. Her interpreter said: “They do have lots of issues as in damp problems. From the damp there’s a lot of issues because the child suffers from hay fever, so they get ill a lot, they’ve got asthma. The landlord refuses to do any work, they have to ask him lots of times and he won’t do anything at the moment, so they just suffer.”
Participant 9’s interpreter said: “The bath is broken. The carpet has worn out so much in the living room you can see the wood underneath. When she asks the landlord to sort this out, the landlord says it’s the tenant’s responsibility… She’s got mice in the house. The council have come out and treated the property, it’s fine for a couple of months and then they’re back again.”
The landscape of the PRS in Lozells works to severely undermine tenants’ rights. Private renters often felt unable to question refusals to perform repairs, rent increases and poor treatment because of the lack of affordable, available properties to relocate to.
Meanwhile, the lack of consistent support from local authorities, as well as language barriers, work to further restrict renters from accessing good quality housing. Ultimately, for many of the Southern Asian migrant community in Lozells, finding a safe and secure home was impossible.