Ben Yarrow is Founder of Marks Out Of Tenancy. For more useful websites for renters, visit our resources page.
Ask anyone who’s renting, everyone’s got a story to share. Whether it’s good, bad or just plain ugly; every renter has had their own experience with a landlord or a letting agent that can give us insight into what can be expected as a potential tenant of theirs.
Now, while it can be fun to wax lyrical about rental horror stories, we wanted to figure out how this exchange of experiences could be harnessed to the benefit of generation rent - so we created Marks out of Tenancy.
Just 62.9% of England's population owns their home - the lowest proportion since 1985. And the private rented population now stands at 4.5m households, up on last year and bigger than in 1961, when slum landlords like Peter Rachman were making tenants' lives a misery.
These are the big findings of the English Housing Survey Headline Report, the first of two releases of the government-commissioned survey for 2015-16.
At this rate, there will be more private renters than mortgage holders in just five years' time. It's already the largest tenure in London.
Even though the government has promised to ban letting fees, our crowdsourced research project at lettingfees.co.uk continues to build up a picture of renter exploitation around the country. Renters in Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove now have an online comparison of letting fees in their area, which will help them avoid the rogues who are either charging excessive fees or just not publishing theirs.
We have put in our response to the government’s consultation on banning orders – the new mechanism to prevent criminals from operating in the rental market. That’s right, they aren’t banned already.
The government has asked what types of offences should be banworthy, and set a deadline of midnight tonight.
We asked our supporters for their experiences earlier in the week, dozens of you responded, and the feedback has helped shape our response to the government.
Well, the Housing White Paper was a massive disappointment. After an exciting glimpse on Sunday of moves to "incentivise" longer tenancies, on Tuesday it became clear that those incentives were existing government subsidies for companies building new homes. Number of beneficiaries: 80,322 (not counting the companies who would have offered longer tenancies anyway).
For the 4.3 million households in existing properties? The vague undertaking to "consider what more we can do to support families already renting privately, while encouraging continued investment in the sector." Which gives little hope to people who don't live with their family and a lot of hope to property speculators.
Commenting on the Housing White Paper, Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, said:
“Sajid Javid has the right analysis about the plight of renters, but his White Paper has failed to offer us anything of substance.
Although the 2016 Housing and Planning Act paved the way for the mass sell-off of council houses, eroded security for social tenants and watered down the affordability of new homes, it also made it possible to ban criminals from letting out properties, with new Banning Orders.
As we await the Housing White Paper to see how far the government will go to improve private renting further - and how much it will atone for the damage it caused to social housing - we are drafting our feedback on how Banning Orders will work.
Today's Observer declares that the "home-owning democracy", that elusive vision beloved of the Conservatives since Thatcher, is finished.
Ahead of next week's Housing White Paper, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid says, "We understand people are living longer in private rented accommodation", which is the closest the government has come to admitting that their policies to help first-time buyers can only go so far.