“The government is unlikely to regulate or legislate the private sector to a degree that will make it fit for purpose – tenants will need to unite and work together through tenants organisations for the private sector” – Race Equality Foundation. Health, housing and the impact on health inequalities, 2014.
The findings of the Race Equality Foundation’s report on ‘Health, housing and the impact on health inequalities’ will come as no surprise to most of us. As the private rented sector swells and social housing stock dwindles and decays, tenants are increasingly at the mercy of rogue landlords who are woefully incompetent and accountable to practically no-one. As the report highlights, “many landlords have very low skill levels – they are amateurs with no training who expect properties to look after themselves”. Most private tenants are reluctant to negotiate a route through the bureaucratic maze that could, if they are lucky, culminate in their day at court and some compensation for their trouble (especially in light of some landlords’ predilection for Section 21 evictions – where tenants are evicted without a stated reason).
According to the London Poverty Profile 2013 an astonishing 39% of London-based private tenants are living in poverty – how many of them have the means, material or otherwise, to take on their landlords?
Poor housing is known to cause respiratory problems, winter deaths among the elderly, falls, accidents, mental health issues and it has a significant impact on educational attainment, physical fitness and future prospects. Not only this, the social interaction between tenants and landlords also has a negative effect on the former due to an obvious imbalance of power. The scarcity of affordable housing, prevalence of rogue landlords, increased instances of disrepair and the ever-present fear of retaliatory evictions all serve to maintain the ideal environment in which mental and physical distress thrive.
As part of Tell Us Your Story – Hackney Renters’ most recent campaign – we asked residents of Hackney to share their account of private renting in the area. Some of the stories we received were truly shocking, ranging from landlords harassing tenants to retaliatory evictions and deadly carbon monoxide leakages. Many of those who shared their stories with us had little visible hope that their respective situations would improve and it appears that often the only solution is to move elsewhere – but how many people can up sticks and move away just like that? And who is to say their situation will improve if they do manage to secure alternative housing? Given the prevalence of dilapidated housing stock and inept landlords, the likelihood that tenants will face many of the same problems elsewhere is significant.
You can click here to read the full report, and below are the names of tenants’ rights organisations across London. Please support your local branch:
Islington Private Tenants: http://islingtonprivatetenants.org.uk/about-us/
Haringey Private Tenants: http://www.haringeyprivatetenants.org.uk/?page_id=30
Advice 4 Renters: http://www.advice4renters.org.uk/legal/
Camden Federation of Private Tenants: http://www.cfpt.org.uk/
Southwark Tenants: http://southwarktenants.wordpress.com/
Lambeth Renters: http://lambethrenters.wordpress.com/
Tower Hamlets Renters: http://towerhamletsrenters.org/
Waltham Forest Renters: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1384553071833745/