More than 200,000 people have faced eviction in the last year because they asked their private landlord to fix a problem in their home, according to Shelter research released today.
A YouGov poll of more than 4,500 private renters found that 2% – equivalent to over 213,000 people across England – said they had been evicted or served with an eviction notice in the last year because they complained to their landlord, letting agent or council about a problem that wasn’t their responsibility.
The study also suggested that many more renters are too scared of losing their home to complain at all. 1 in 12 renters (8%) say they have avoided asking their landlord to repair a problem or improve conditions in the last year because they were scared of eviction.
A separate investigation by Shelter uncovered shocking cases of ‘revenge evictions’ across the country, including:
• A family in Norfolk handed an eviction notice three weeks after reporting damp and mould to their landlord;
• A couple in Brighton who complained about a broken thermostat, mould and damp that was affecting their health, and were served an eviction notice just a week later;
• A family from Lancashire evicted after complaining about a leaking roof, who were told by their landlord that it “wasn’t worth his while” to fix the problem.
The charity is launching an online petition at www.shelter.org.uk/9millionrenters, campaigning for the government to protect renters from unfair ‘revenge evictions’.
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins is currently reviewing whether to change the law to tackle the problem.
Last month, official figures revealed that the number of private renting households in England rose to almost four million – an increase of 77% in a decade - as a severe shortage of affordable homes pushes homeownership further out of reach.
The YouGov study also uncovered the shocking scale of bad conditions in privately rented homes. More than two fifths (41%) of renters have experienced mould in their homes in the past year, while a quarter (25%) have lived with a leaking roof or windows, and 16% have had electrical hazards.
Greg and Laura Moore have been served an eviction notice from their rented home near Fakenham, Norfolk, which they share with their three children. Greg says: “After living here for two and a half years, the eviction notice came just three weeks after I asked the landlord to sort out the mould and damp. Right now we have nowhere to go, and moving house is going to mean moving my son’s school in the middle of his GCSEs. We haven’t done anything wrong. This shouldn’t be allowed.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “No-one should lose their home for asking their landlord to fix a problem, yet these shocking findings uncover the true scale of unfair evictions taking place across the country.
“As homeownership drifts further out of reach, more of us are facing the prospect of settling down and bringing up a family in a rented home. But with private renters facing the worst housing conditions in the country – and the chance of eviction if they complain – generation rent is getting a raw deal. The government must protect England’s nine million renters from unfair evictions.
“We’re calling on people across the country to sign our petition and send the government a message that England’s nine million renters deserve better, now.”
The research was commissioned by Shelter and British Gas as part of their partnership to improve the conditions of privately rented homes.
Notes to editors
1. Shelter and British Gas commissioned a YouGov poll of 4,544 private renters in England. Fieldwork took place between 11th December 2013 and 16th January 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all private renters in England (aged 18+). All population estimates have been calculated by Shelter.
2. 2% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘I was evicted or served notice because I asked for a problem in my home to be dealt with that was not my responsibility (eg repairs or conditions) in the last year’ or the statement ‘I was evicted or served notice because I complained to my local council about a problem in my home to be dealt with that was not my responsibility (eg repairs or conditions) in the last year’. This is equivalent to 213,638 people in England including dependent children. 8% agreed with the statement ‘I have not asked for repairs to be carried out and/or conditions improved because of fear of eviction’.
3. The estimates of numbers of people affected have been calculated by Shelter. These estimates are based on 2012-13 figures from Communities and Local Government English Housing Survey which show there are 9.3 million people living in private rented accommodation based on number of households multiplied by mean number of persons per household. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-housing-survey-2012-to-2013-headline-report
4. ‘Last month, official figures revealed that the number of private renting households in England rose by 77%’ – source, English Housing Survey, DCLG https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-housing-survey-2012-to-2013-headline-report
5. ‘Private renters face the worst housing conditions in the country’ – source, English Housing Survey, DCLG https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-housing-survey-2012-to-2013-headline-report
6. ‘The housing minister is currently reviewing whether to change the law’: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/creating-a-fair-and-flexible-private-rented-sector
7. British Gas and Shelter have joined forces in a five year partnership to help tackle the problem of poor quality private rented homes in Britain. The partnership will tackle five key areas:
c. Landlord advice
d. Renter advice
Advice for tenants
• If you have problems with conditions in your home, it is important you report these to your landlord right away
• If you would rather leave your property than put up with poor conditions, make sure you end your tenancy properly and keep in mind the costs of moving. You will also have to pay the rent for any fixed term agreed.
• If your landlord tries to evict you evict you rather than do the work, they may be guilty of illegal eviction or harassment – these are serious criminal offences.
• Visit shelter.org.uk or call the free helpline on 0808 800 4444 to find out how you can take action. You may be able to claim compensation, even after you have moved out
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