Smaller parties manifesto round up
We've looked at what the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and the Brexit Party - parties that are only standing in parts of the UK - have to offer renters.
Three of these parties are only standing in nations where housing issues are devolved, so they understandably have less interest in housing at this election, but there are some issues - like housing benefit - that are decided by Westminster for the whole of the UK.
Conservative Party Manifesto: What can renters expect?
In the final instalment of our manifesto reviews, we take a look at what the Conservative Party has to offer private renters.
What is your vote worth? Renters could make a difference in these seats
2.4 million private renters could miss out on voting at the General Election if they don't register to vote by midnight tomorrow.
Private renters move house more frequently than homeowners, and as a result, just 58% are correctly registered, compared with 91% of homeowners, according to figures by the Electoral Commission. Many renters are on contracts of just 12 months, and private renters are six times more likely to move in a given year than homeowners.
We've worked out which Parliamentary seats could be decided by private renters on 12 December - the seats in orange and brown have more unregistered private renters than the number of votes the last MP won by.
Green Party Manifesto: A Green New Deal for Renting?
Next up is the Green Party’s manifesto. We assess whether the Green’s New Deal for housing helps make renting safe, secure and fair.
These are the places you're most at risk of a no-fault eviction
Renters in south east commuter towns and the edges of Greater London are at the highest risk of a no-fault eviction, our analysis of government data has revealed.
The worst place for evictions is the London Borough of Havering where last year 39 in every 1000 private renters were made homeless by landlords selling up, re-letting or evicting to avoid making repairs. And that's just people who sought help from their council - many more will have found a new home, but moved at their own expense.
Our General Election campaign
Whatever way you look at it - this General Election is important. The next Government will be tackling the big issues of the day like Brexit, crime, protecting our NHS and fixing the housing crisis. At this election Generation Rent is getting stuck in.
What the next government can do to fix renting - Renter Manifesto 2019
Today we've joined up with renters and housing justice campaigners from across England to launch a national renter manifesto in time for the 2019 General Election.
Written by Generation Rent, London Renters Union, ACORN, New Economics Foundation, Renters’ Rights London and Tenants Union UK, the manifesto calls for radical reform of private renting and a transformation of the housing system - including the abolition of section 21 evictions, the introduction of rent controls and an end to discrimination of tenants on housing benefit.
Landlords should pay tenants’ moving costs: the case for relocation payments
We polled 2,000 people on their experience of moving home.
We need a national register of landlords - here's why
Right now, the private rented sector is a wild west which at best costs a fortune for somewhere you can’t call a home and at its worst is dangerously unsafe. In fact, it’s so unregulated that right now the government doesn’t actually know how many landlords are out there.
Housing isn’t a priority for Boris Johnson. Here’s why it should be:
There was no mention of private renting in the Queen's Speech today, but it would be a mistake for Boris Johnson's government to overlook it.
Renters take unfair evictions to the government's door
There are just a few days left to have your say about the government’s plans to scrap Section 21, the law that allows landlords to evict tenants without needing a reason.
The Ministry of Housing’s consultation on abolishing Section 21 closes on Saturday and today, alongside other members of the End Unfair Evictions coalition, we went down to Westminster to call on the government to give tenants the protections needed to enjoy a stable home.
Renters celebrate restrictions on holiday let adverts!
Transport for London has banned adverts for holiday let companies that take homes away from Londoners, following a successful campaign against the anti-tenant adverts by Generation Rent.
Tenants in line for £117.90 when renewing
One of the great things about the Tenant Fees Act is that you can save money whether you move home or stay put.
Since June, tenants signing an agreement on a new home in England do not have to pay letting agent fees. (As of yesterday, the ban applies across the UK.)
But there's been less fanfare for the cap on deposits at five weeks' rent, which means that a tenant renewing the agreement on their current home could get a refund if their deposit is worth more than that.
Your chance to make tenancy deposits fairer
Deposits are behind some of the most common problems we hear about from renters:
- tenants' money doesn't get protected
- the struggle to get deposits back when moving home
- and many of us are unable to afford them in the first place
The good news is the government is looking at how the deposits system can be improved and is asking for renters' experiences until 5 September. This is your chance to share your experience of deposits and help change the system.
Finding out if your landlord is a criminal
There are now three live government consultations that could help to reshape the private rental market.
One is on reforming tenancy deposits (deadline for responses 2 September), the second is on abolishing Section 21 evictions (deadline 12 October) and the third, announced last Sunday as well, proposes giving tenants access to a government database of criminal landlords.
Government consults on ending Section 21
It's finally here! After announcing in April its intention to abolish Section 21, the government has published its proposals for making this happen.
We've been through the consultation document, which is open for responses until 12 October, and here's a quickish summary of what's in it.
We'll be preparing our own response, but we also want to hear what you think. And most importantly, we're looking at how to make it easy for renters to respond and make sure the government does this right.
Sadiq Khan publishes vision for London's rental market
The Mayor of London has come out firmly in favour of our campaign to end unfair evictions - and has pushed the government to give him powers to bring in rent controls in the capital.
He was elected in 2016 on a pledge to shake up London's private rented sector, and now, after a long consultation period, Sadiq Khan has unveiled his proposals.
The lexical challenge of building more affordable homes
At the launch of the Affordable Housing Commission in October, the chair, Lord Best, a veteran of august commissions spanning the past 30 years, related an experience he’d had with one that was looking at The Future of the Family.
More than halfway into the process, its chair came to meet its sponsor (then plain old Richard Best) and admitted that they were a little behind schedule. They hadn’t managed to agree on a definition of “family”.
From the off, members of the commission – of which I am honoured to be one – are therefore highly conscious of the need to get the basics right. But not only do we need to know what “affordable” means (already the subject of much controversy in the housing world), but I think we also need to define “home”.
A win on deposits and one step closer to regulating landlords
The letting fees ban is great and all, but now fees are out of the way, you still have to scrape together a large deposit before you can move home.
Well, we thought about that - last year we proposed a system where you could transfer part of your deposit to your next tenancy, once you'd done responsible things like pay your final month's rent. We called this deposit passporting.
Everything you need to know about the Tenant Fees Ban
After years of waiting, England's Tenant Fees Ban is finally here. It means that letting agents and landlords won’t be able to charge extortionate fees when you move to a new home. Here are the top 6 things you need to know about the ban:
Revealed: Agents breaking laws on tenant fees
You read that right: before the ban on letting fees has even come into force (this Saturday, folks), letting agents are already flouting existing laws on fees. Since 2015 agents have been supposed to display details of the fees they charge tenants online, but we've found 21 that are not.
Local councils could be collecting £5000 in fines for these offences, so the fact that agents are still getting away with it does not fill us with confidence that the fees ban will be enforced effectively.
Longer Tenancies: Benefits, barriers and insights from the Government consultation
Last month’s announcement that the Government intends to abolish section 21 evictions and create open-ended tenancies rightly took the limelight, but alongside it was published the Government response to last summer’s longer tenancies consultation. As we all look ahead to the forthcoming reforms that will create a secure, open-ended tenancy, adjust legitimate grounds for eviction, and streamline the court process, it’s useful to dig back into the detail of the consultation responses to understand how tenants, landlords, and letting agents understand the barriers to and benefits of longer tenancies.
Here are some key take-aways from the consultation responses which should be borne in mind as the new open-ended tenancy and wider private rental market reforms are shaped.
We need to talk about short term lets
You’ve probably heard of Airbnb. But you might not have heard of Flipkey, HomeAway, HomeStay or Hostmaker. The concept stays the same - property owners rent out their house or flat for ‘short-term lets’, also known as holiday homes. They can be a great solution for covering your rent or mortgage bills for a few weeks whilst you’re away or utilising that spare room in your home.
But the problem is that local communities are finding more and more entire properties becoming permanent holiday homes. It’s eating up the market of houses that families can call home, and pushing up local rents.
"My letting agent lied to me about the tenants fee ban"
I’m currently looking for a new home. My flat is being sold and my current estate agents aren’t being as supportive as I hoped so I started casting my net wider - looking at properties with other agents.
I’d seen a house I really liked and was chatting through with the estate agent the next steps. That’s when I started to get suspicious: one estate agency said the ban on letting fees was “like Brexit” in that it was being continually pushed back and might not even happen. He told me I shouldn’t wait to sign after 1st June (when the ban comes into force) because the fees ban might not happen and by then I’d have missed out on some really great properties. I left that meeting feeling confused - was he right about the law?
I went to another agency who didn’t seem to know about the Tenant Fees Act at all and gave me the same advice “don’t wait for June 1st, the ban doesn’t exist”. Luckily, I’m not in a rush to move just yet but both agents ran and text me multiple times, pushing me to sign before June.
I was cautious, everyone I know who rents thought the ban was coming in on 1st June, but hearing two professionals deny it made me doubt myself.
So I did my research on the Parliament website and took a look at Generation Rent’s advice and I found out the ban is definitely coming into force on 1st June. It will mean that if you sign a contract after 1st June, your letting agent and landlord will only be able to take payments for:
- Security deposit – capped at 5 weeks rent
- Holding deposit – capped at 1 weeks rent
- Early termination payment
- Change of sharer fee (shouldn’t be more than £50)
- Charge for lost keys or security device
- Charge for interest on late rent payments
I’ve lost my faith in agents now. For someone to outright lie about a law they’re obliged to follow, in order to manipulate me into spending hundreds of fees, made me feel let down - house hunting has now become a chore and something I’m not excited about, purely based on how estate agents have made me feel, rather than based on the properties themselves.
The agents followed up with me, texting me 3 days in a row saying I could pay the fees over the phone as soon as I submitted an application. This also seemed kind of suspect, as usually, I’ve applied to properties then had to wait a few days for confirmation that I’m the selected tenant, at which point fees are paid to do referencing. I do wonder if they said I could pay as soon as I had applied, in order to ensure they get as many tenants into their properties before the ban comes in.
I’m so glad that I did my research - it’s likely that I saved myself £400 by not signing that contract - let alone all the future fees I could have been charged for.
If you’ve had an experience like mine then get in touch with Generation Rent. They are putting together a team of volunteers to mystery shop letting agents and make sure they are giving the right advice to tenants. I know not all letting agents are like this but we need to hold the bad ones to account.
*Samira is a false name to protect the identity of this renter.
Revealed: unfair letting agent practices to watch out for
We're very grateful to Which?, the consumer rights organisation, for their latest investigation into letting agents. A mystery-shopping exercise, targeting 20 agents around the country, revealed practices that potentially breach the law: from denying would-be tenants the opportunity to review terms and conditions before putting down money, to opaque fees.
This piece of work is particularly useful because it gives tenants an idea of what bad practice to watch out for (and challenge) the next time you're trying to find a new home. Here's what they found...
Tenancy reform and ending section 21: making this promise a reality
After the Government announced they will scrap section 21 'no fault' evictions and introduce open-ended tenancies, the End Unfair Evictions campaign coalition took a moment to celebrate. But the reality is that there is still much work to do. This sea change in tenancy law and renter rights will not happen straight away. First there will be a consultation (out 'shortly') on what the new open-ended tenancy model will look like, including legitimate possession grounds. Generation Rent will be talking to tenants, landlords and government to get the detail of the new tenancy right.
Once the consultation period closes, the government will have to confirm the design of the new tenancy and prepare a Bill to enact this in legislation. The earliest this legislation could be introduced into Parliament is likely Autumn. Although tenancy reform now has cross-party support, there’s the potential for this Bill to take some time to pass, especially given how much Parliamentary time Brexit needs. If the legislation is passed in 2020, it won’t be implemented immediately.
Government will scrap Section 21 no fault evictions in huge campaign victory for private renters
The Government will scrap section 21, ending ‘no fault’ evictions in England that have caused misery and hardship for millions of private renters and eroded our communities. This morning's announcement also said insecure fixed-term tenancies will go and a new, open-ended tenancy will be created.
“Deposit-free” products: definitely not free and less protection for renters.
“Deposit-free” schemes on the market can cost as much as £864 for a two year tenancy in non-refundable costs to tenants, new product analysis and cost comparison by Generation Rent shows. And if the landlord makes a claim for deductions at the end of the tenancy, that figure can rise much higher.
Older renters struggling with affordability, insecurity, and lack of agency
The demographics of renters has changed so much over the last decade that we could now pluralise our name to Generations Rent. We’re very much conscious of the trend of older people privately renting, which will continue for the foreseeable future, so we were pleased to be invited to speak at Age UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on ageing and older people which is holding an inquiry into older people’s housing. This session focused specifically on older tenants in the private rented sector and how housing impacts their physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Generation Rent’s 2019 survey of private renters has just closed, so we crunched the responses and pulled out some findings specifically relating to older renters to share at the event. We received over a thousand survey responses in total, and 32% of responses were from tenants aged 55 or older, with 17.5% aged 65 or over.
Policing the letting fees ban - what we're up to
The ban on letting fees is coming – from 1 June, renters in England (including licensees and property guardians as well as tenants) will not have to pay fees for admin, references or inventory to move into a new home. Just the rent and refundable deposits.
This should have a huge impact – not only on renters’ finances, but on their relationship with the landlord and agent too. If the landlord isn’t fixing something or is asking for a higher rent, the tenant is in a stronger negotiating position because it is now cheaper for them to move out instead. Faced with the prospect of a tenantless property, the landlord is more likely to capitulate.
But letting agents are a crafty bunch – their ability to invent fees out of thin air is why we’ve got to this point. And many are willing to break the law – our research on lettingfees.co.uk found that 12% of agents weren’t publishing their fees, in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Private renters denied protection from revenge eviction
Dangerous, broken stairs, or mouldy walls making your family ill? What do you do if the landlord won’t make sure your home is safe? Private renters can contact their council, who have a responsibility to enforce housing safety standards. The council should investigate complaints and if they find a serious hazard, take enforcement action against the landlord, which triggers protection against revenge eviction for the tenant.
But new analysis by Generation Rent shows that just one in every 20 renters who complains to the council about poor conditions gets protection from a revenge eviction. Even when a severe hazard is found, tenants only get protection from eviction in 1 in every 5 cases.
Britain’s biggest landlords cash in their portfolio - and evict 100s of families
Fergus and Judith Wilson own over 700 properties. They are among Britain’s biggest private landlords, owning entire streets in some parts of Kent. Ever since their decision, in 2014, to evict all tenants on housing benefits - even those who had never been in arrears on their rent - their names have been synonymous with controversy.
Now, the Wilsons have decided to cash in on their estimated £250m property portfolio, to settle down and “take life easy”. They reckon that it’s easier and more profitable for landlords to sell properties without tenants in-situ. So the Wilson’s have started the process of evicting their tenants in preparation for the sale.
Almost all the couples’ properties are two or three bedroom new builds, and many are home to young families. By law, the Wilsons only have to give the tenants two months’ notice of eviction. Some might manage to find new homes in this time. But many landlords are notoriously unwilling to offer tenancies to families on low incomes, meaning the most vulnerable will struggle. The chances of so many people finding suitable new homes are slim. Still less, homes nearby their employers, schools and support networks. Many must fear homelessness, and could be forced to turn to an already stretched council for support.
Three wins on ending discrimination
There’s been some good news this month for people facing discrimination in the private rental market – because of how they pay their rent, or because of who they are.
Buy-to-let mortgage conditions
First, Natwest announced that it would lift “all restrictions on landlords renting to tenants who are in receipt of housing benefits”.
The English Private Landlord Survey 2018
Happy tenants. Happy landlords. Longer tenancies and no unfair evictions. It’s all possible!
The 2018 English Private Landlords Survey (EPLS) – the first since 2010 – demonstrates that much-needed changes to the private rented sector, specifically to renter security, would have little or no effects on most landlords. The current system of rules reflects the interests and opinions of a small minority of landlords at the great expense of tenants who deserve better.
The EPLS surveyed 8000 landlords and letting agents and its findings were published last month. The questionnaire covered three main topics: landlord characteristics; their attitudes and behaviours; and, importantly, the future of the private rented sector.
What are some of the key findings and what do they mean for renter security?
Parliament abolishes £410m-a-year scam
The House of Commons has read letting agent fees their last rites! This afternoon MPs voted to approve the final version of the Tenant Fees Bill signed off last week by the House of Lords.
From 1 June, private renters moving home will no longer have to pay fees to start a new tenancy in England. Agents will only be able to ask for rent, and refundable holding and security deposits (capped at 1 week’s rent and 5 weeks’ rent respectively). The only exemptions are fees to cover the cost of lost keys, late rent payments, changing the name on a tenancy or ending a tenancy early.
Letting Agents are not the "servants of two masters"
Parliament’s scrutiny of the Tenant Fees Bill has exposed the common misconception that a letting agent works for both the landlord and the tenant. A letting agent is not, as David Cox, CEO of ARLA Propertymark had put it, “effectively the servant of two masters.” Letting agents typically act for only one side (usually, the landlord).
An agent’s role is to serve the interests of the person who appoints them. It is simply not possible to act loyally for two parties whose interests are at odds (e.g. when one side would rather receive higher rent and the other would rather pay less). To suggest otherwise is to contradict English statute and common law, the Property Ombudsman’s guidance, the forthcoming Tenant Fees Bill and even the Bible.
2018 takes renters closer to a fairer housing market
It's our End Of Year round-up! 2018 has been an exciting year for the campaign. Through our work - with activists, renter unions and other groups - we are closer to a safer, fairer and more secure private rental market.
MPs debated Section 21 - here's what they had to say
On Thursday 6th December our campaign to end unfair evictions reached the Houses of Parliament.
Labour MP Karen Buck, in partnership with the End Unfair Evictions campaign, sponsored a Westminster Hall parliamentary debate on the problems pertaining to Section 28 evictions. MPs came together to share horror stories from their constituents of evictions as well as discuss the larger power imbalances born of the constant threat of eviction many tenants live with.
Section 21: Terrible for tenants and lengthy for landlords in court
Our campaign to end unfair evictions has caught the attention of Parliament. On Thursday, MPs are debating “the use of Section 21 evictions in the private rented sector”.
We’re calling for the abolition of Section 21, and the government is considering responses to its proposed three-year tenancies. This is the first opportunity MPs will have to air their views on reform, and quiz the Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler, on her department’s proposals. We’ll get a sense of what there is cross-party support for.
Ahead of the debate, we wanted to take a look at what we know about evictions and their extent. It's important to note that the problems with Section 21 go far beyond the basic number of evictions. The threat of a no-fault eviction discourages tenants from treating the property as their long term home, and even from complaining about disrepair.
Pressure builds on Natwest over benefit discrimination
Back in October, we learned that Natwest had asked one of its buy-to-let customers to either evict her tenant, who was receiving housing benefit, or pay a draconian fee to switch her mortgage.
The bank’s terms and conditions prohibited customers from letting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit. Yet another example of a bank discriminating against low-income households and fuelling the “No DSS” culture. But this time, 62% of the bank is owned by the government, i.e. us.
The landlord has started a petition urging the government to stop this practice by high street banks, and it’s nearly at 5000 signatures.
Life after Section 21
Today is the 30th anniversary of the Housing Act 1988 receiving Royal Assent and becoming law. The Act introduced the assured shorthold tenancy, and, with it, Section 21, the ability for landlords to evict without needing a reason.
As part of the End Unfair Evictions campaign we are calling for Section 21 to be scrapped, and demanded this in our response to the government’s recent consultation on longer tenancies. In our response we also set out how the private rental market should work once Section 21 is history.
Lords send ministers away to fix fees ban
The letting fees ban has inched closer to being law. Yesterday a Grand Committee of the House of Lords went through most of the Tenant Fees Bill, line by line. There are still potential loopholes that could leave tenants vulnerable to exploitation.
Following lobbying by ourselves, Shelter and Citizens Advice, and amendments by peers including Baroness Grender and Lord Kennedy, the government has now agreed to examine them before the Report Stage.
Hammond Housing Horror
Despite repeated cries by the Chancellor that “your hard work has paid off”, the Autumn Budget was underwhelming in its efforts to address the housing crisis. In brief, nothing new for renters, a mixed bag for landlords, and support for first-time buyers moving into shared ownership. Several extra pots of cash for housebuilding but well short of what’s needed and nothing radical in terms of reforming the land market to funnel the proceeds of development to local communities and build more council homes.
What happens to rents if landlords exit the market? Nothing.
Today we publish new research looking at the relationship between the size of the private rental market and rents, in light of the credit crunch, landlord tax changes, and proposals for tenancy reform.
We demonstrate that:
- A fall in rental supply is matched by a fall in demand as renters become home owners
- There is no impact on inflation-adjusted rents - in fact they've been falling
- The experience of the past 14 years suggests rents are most closely linked to wages - i.e. what renters can afford to pay
- This should give the government confidence to press on with substantial reform to tenancies
Is Onward's policy Right to Buy for private renters?
Right to Buy was electoral gold dust to the Conservatives back in the 1980s, but since council homes were sold off unreplaced, and the social housing sector dwindled, it has lost its lustre. With housing policy the key to winning over today’s 18 to, er, 45 year olds, it’s no wonder some in the party have taken up alchemy.
Onward, a think tank peopled by former government advisers, thinks it has the answer, which is about as close to Right to Buy for private tenants as we’re likely to get. Because the property is not the state’s to sell, it’s merely Chance to Buy.