May removes yet another obstacle to council home building
This week has been the Conservative Party's conference, and their chance to match Labour's pledges to abolish Section 21 and seed-fund renters' unions.
There is a lot of worry among the party faithful that they are not doing enough about housing - the defining political issue of a generation. But with consultation responses on security being scrutinised by officials back in Whitehall, and Help to Buy facing negative attention, their options were narrow.
Mayor of London backs indefinite tenancies
At the Labour party conference this week, delegates adopted a motion to (among other things) "Help private renters with an end to ‘no fault’ evictions, controls on rents and new minimum standards, including three year tenancies as standard."
The BBC reported on this commitment, but beyond the wording of this motion and John Healey's speech, we haven't had any more detail of what this would entail.
Luckily, Sadiq Khan has obliged. While the Mayor of London is not a member of the Shadow Cabinet, last week's publication of his response to the government's consultation on longer tenancies revealed that he is calling for much the same thing, plus some more idea of what it might look like in practice.
Labour signs up to #endsection21
We kind of knew this already, but Labour is officially backing our campaign to end Section 21 and will scrap landlords' ability to evict tenants without giving a reason. It was reported by the BBC this morning, was part of the shadow Housing Secretary John Healey's speech in the conference centre, and then a motion on housing that included it was passed.
This follows members of the End Unfair Evictions doing a lot of work behind the scenes to successfully get local Labour parties to support the motion.
An even bigger piece of news was a £20m pot to jumpstart tenants' unions in the UK, reported by the Independent.
Before you rent: How to protect your legal rights
Finding a flat to rent in England can be tough. The stress only compounds when things don’t go as planned. When I lived in London, I got caught out when my landlord insisted on “renegotiating” the tenancy terms after I had paid a holding deposit (a troublingly common practice in the market).
Here are twelve things tenants can do to protect their rights, which helped me succeed in my legal claim against my landlord.
Cabinet split over tenancy reform
On Wednesday, the Sun reported that 10 Downing Street and the Treasury are blocking moves to legislate for longer tenancies.
Although the recently closed consultation left open the question of making the new tenancy mandatory or voluntary, the same newspaper had previously reported that the Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, wanted all tenants to get it.
That sets up a big internal government battle over tenants' rights as the Conservative Party worries more and more about winning over younger voters.
Public backs better security for renters
As the consultation period on the government's proposals for longer tenancies draws to a close - the deadline to respond is this Sunday - we are handing in our End Unfair Evictions petition to the Ministry of Housing today. It passed 50,000 signatures on Tuesday, helped along by #VentYourRent.
And if that wasn't enough to make the government pay attention, new polling from Survation finds that our demands have the backing of the wider public, including Conservative voters.
No-fault evictions drive up homelessness
Section 21 is the leading cause of statutory homelessness. This law allows evictions with no reason needed, and this is one more reason why we should scrap it.
To some extent, this is stating the bleeding obvious. Since 2012, the end of a private tenancy has been the leading cause of homelessness cases accepted by local authorities, but until now no one has specifically pointed the finger at Section 21. Today, we've been able to demonstrate it.
Source: Ministry of Housing
Proof that millions of renters are failed by unfair rental laws
The latest English Housing Survey was out last week, and the results are further evidence for what we’ve been arguing for years: England’s rental laws are making life insecure and expensive for growing numbers of people.
Four early victories for the End Unfair Evictions campaign
It is less than a month since we launched our joint campaign - with ACORN, the New Economics Foundation and the London Renters Union - to end section 21 no-fault evictions, and we've already had some major successes.
Here are four things we can celebrate already.
A victory on tenant security, but the campaign continues
After reports in the Sunday papers, late yesterday afternoon the Ministry of Housing published its long-awaited consultation paper on "Overcoming Barriers to Longer Tenancies in the Private Rented Sector".
It allows us a moment to celebrate the first success of the End Unfair Evictions campaign: an acceptance by the government that private tenancy law is failing England's tenants - just as our petition passes 40,000 signatures.
Leaving the detail of the policy to one side for now, it is significantly the first time the government has considered a change to tenancy law. Up to now ministers have been talking of merely "encouraging" landlords to offer better terms - while most landlords might do this, a lot of tenants would get no benefit. We have been arguing that we need full reform and, while incentives are still an option, mandatory reform is now on the table.
Protection from revenge evictions a postcode lottery
This week we launched the End Unfair Evictions coalition with ACORN, London Renters Union, and New Economics Foundation. We're calling for an end to Section 21, which allows landlords to evict tenants without needing a reason.
One reason we're doing is that existing protections are not working in practice.
Back in 2014/15, we fought a hard campaign alongside Shelter, GMB Young London and others to give tenants basic protection from eviction when they complained about their landlord.
The resulting measures in the Deregulation Act 2015 stopped landlords from serving a Section 21 eviction notice to tenants if the council had found hazards in the property and served an appropriate improvement notice on the owner. This protection lasted for 6 months and was meant to give tenants more confidence in getting their landlord to fix health and safety problems, because the landlord can no longer simply retaliate by kicking them out.
New mayoral strategy develops plans for London's private renters
Two million tenants in London will welcome the fact that getting a fairer deal for private renters is one of the Mayor of London’s five priorities for housing in the London Housing Strategy, which was published at the end of May. Given that Sadiq Khan’s housing powers are highly limited, what is his strategy promising to private renters in London?
MPs vote to ban fees
The Tenant Fees Bill had its second reading in Parliament on Monday evening, where it was debated at length by MPs before being passed unanimously through to committee stage. All the issues that we’ve raised as a concern – default fees, the deposit cap, enforcement of the ban on letting fees – were brought up by MPs in the course of the debate.
What is Section 21 and why does it need to be scrapped?
Landlords can remove tenants without giving a reason. That’s unfair and it needs to change.
Most of England’s 11 million renters are on contracts with fixed terms of six months or a year; after this period has ended, landlords can evict their tenants with just two months’ notice – and without even giving them a reason. These ‘no fault evictions’ were introduced under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act. Before this, private tenants had much greater security and it was much harder for landlords to evict tenants who paid the rent on time and looked after the property. The government has finally decided to consult on ways of improving renter security, but - while there are some promising aspects to their proposals - they suggest that no-fault evictions will remain. Generation Rent, the New Economics Foundation, ACORN and the London Renters Union are launching a campaign to abolish section 21.
Letting fees ban moves closer - but loophole remains
Good news for hard-pressed private renters facing rip off fees from letting agents.
The Government has introduced the Tenant Fees Bill into Parliament, which aims to ban the fees commonly charged by letting agents for new tenancy agreements. This is part of the Government’s promise to make private renting cheaper and fairer and it’s a much-needed piece of legislation, especially as a quarter of us in the UK will rent privately by 2021.
London's renters are not getting enough protection from their council
With the votes counted in last week's London borough elections we now have some new council leaders. One of their responsibilities is to make sure local private renters are living in safe homes. But judging by the 32 councils' record in 2016-17, they have a lot of work to do.
London Boroughs took action against just 1 percent of the capital’s worst landlords in 2016-17. That's just one of the findings that we've uncovered in new analysis of Freedom of Information data - the basis of a new league table of council performance.
Cross-party groups give their verdicts on renting
This week we’ve had two reports from the political mainstream calling for a better deal for renters. They add to the pressure we’ve been putting on the government to improve tenant security – and though we contributed to both, they don’t quite go as far as we’d like.
The first was from the Resolution Foundation, a think tank chaired by Conservative peer David Willetts and run by Torsten Bell, previously adviser to former Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Government launches secret landlord blacklist
Landlords get to ask tenants for a reference, but there's no way we can check what a prospective landlord is like. That's why we've long been calling for a central database that names and shames criminal landlords.
From today we've got one. But there's a catch: only local councils can access it.
Fees ban concerns remain as Bill completes first stage
The Commons Housing Committee has published its report on the Draft Tenants' Fees Bill today, making recommendations to the government for when it formally introduces the Bill to Parliament.
Generation Rent, along with charities, landlord groups, local councils and other industry organisations, gave evidence to the inquiry earlier in the year. There were positive outcomes on rents and deposits, but more work is needed to make sure the ban covers all fees - and that it's enforced properly.
Here's a summary of what we asked for - and what we got.
Making deposits work for tenants
One reason the housing market is so stacked against renters is the high cost of taking our business elsewhere, so one of the ways we can make renters more powerful is to make moving house easier.
As our research site lettingfees.co.uk discovered, a typical household could save £404 when they move once the letting fees ban comes in. But a bigger cost - in the short term at least - is the damage deposit worth up to six weeks' rent.
We estimate that 86% of renters get most or all of their deposit back, but only after they've already moved into a new home, so achieving that involves raiding their savings, or borrowing money.
That's why today we're calling on the government to start allowing renters to transfer part of their deposit to a new home once they've paid the final month's rent.
Planned shake-up of rental market complaints system
Last October, Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities (and now Housing) said that he wanted to start requiring landlords to join a redress scheme if they did not already use a letting agent.
The government is now consulting on plans for this. The good news is it is considering doing away with the three different schemes tenants have to navigate when they have a complaint at the moment.
Rented London: How local authorities can support private renters
Local council elections are taking place in London in a few months. And just like the 2016 Mayoral race, these contests will be dominated by the city's housing crisis. From Haringey to Kensington and Chelsea, Londoners are looking for secure and affordable homes, and asking their councils to respond.
First-time buyers taking out longer loans to escape the rental sector
The latest English Housing Survey report is out today with the highlights of their findings for 2016-17.
The private rented sector has continued to grow. The population now stands at 4.7m households, with 27% of families renting from a private landlord.
It is once again the largest tenure in London (if you separate outright and mortgaged ownership), and its doubling outside the capital in the past decade illustrates the national impact the housing crisis has had.
Homes fit for humans one step closer
Third time was the charm for efforts to revive the right of renters to sue their landlord for safety failures.
Karen Buck's Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill was talked out in 2015, then a Labour amendment to the Housing Bill in 2016 was defeated. But today, after winning the support of more than 100 MPs who attended the Second Reading debate, the Bill passed unanimously and is a step closer to being law.
Fitness for Human Habitation: Another milestone in the long road to a decent private rented sector
In another sign of the growing importance of the renters' movement in the UK, government announced over the weekend that it would be supporting measured outlined in Karen Buck MP's upcoming private member's bill, which would allow private and social tenants to take legal action against their landlord where their home is not deemed 'fit for human habitation'.
The return of 'fitness for human habitation' - will MPs finally give us this protection?
In ten days time, parliament breaks for the Christmas recess.
When they return in January, they will have an opportunity to support a simple change in law that would provide better protections for renters.
The question is, given that they have missed this opportunity before - will parliament do the right thing this time?
Getting the best from Newham's renewed landlord licensing scheme
This week those campaigning for a better private rented sector received an early Christmas present with the announcement that the Communities Secretary had approved the majority of Newham's proposal for a renewed borough-wide landlord licensing scheme.
Autumn Budget - an anticlimax for renters
The big news in today's Budget was the abolition of stamp duty for most first-time buyers.
From today if you buy your first home you'll pay nothing to the government on the first £300,000 (unless it costs more than £500,000 and you need to be super-rich before you're in that territory).
Life in the rental market: what the future holds for older renters
Most debates around housing focus on young adults, the drastic fall in their rate of home ownership and ways to boost the number of first time buyers.
Far less attention, however, is given to the vast numbers of renters who are already too old to get a mortgage and face a lifetime of renting instead. As more of them reach retirement age, the state will start paying more of their rent, and faces enormous costs unless it makes some fundamental changes to the housing market. Because politicians only operate with 5-year horizons, few are fretting about the implications of lifetime renting.
But we are, and today we publish a report co-authored with David Adler of Oxford University: Life in the Rental Market.
A glimpse of Tory tenancy reform?
An intriguing exchange in the House of Commons this week may contain clues about the government's big forthcoming announcement of reforms to tenancies.
During a debate on temporary accommodation, the backbench Conservative MP Bob Blackman said this:
The greatest cause of homelessness is the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. They usually run for six months and at the end of that period families often have to move. The solution is clear: we need longer tenancies and more security of tenure for families, but also assurances to landlords that they will get paid their rent and that the tenants will behave themselves in accordance with the contract they have signed. I ask the Minister to update us on where we are going with lengthening tenancies, which would dramatically reduce homelessness at a stroke. Perhaps we can do that.
Insecure tenancies drag down quality of life
With home ownership unaffordable and council housing unavailable, private renters are living longer in a tenure that wasn't designed to provide long term homes. The constant threat of your landlord deciding to sell up or move back in means that you have none of the stability that a home is supposed to provide.
New polling from Survation, commissioned by us, exposes the impact this has on tenants' lives. It shows that private renters are more anxious about the security of their home and this is holding them back from investing time in their home and their local community.
Slowly, but surely, a letting fees ban is coming
Almost a year after Phillip Hammond announced the Government's intention to banning letting fees, we now have a draft bill before parliament.
Since that announcement, we have had a consultation on the ban, and of course a new government, but it has remained on the legislative agenda thanks to the concerted campaigning of renters across the country.
Disrupting the market to help tenants
The internet has already shaken up the music industry, television, taxis and self-catering holidays. Investors are now looking for the next industry to disrupt with technology and property seems ripe for the picking.
As the national voice of private renters, we agree that the property industry as it stands fails its consumers in too many ways, so things need to change. Even when we succeed in changing the law, like the forthcoming letting fees ban, we still need to ensure that it's implemented properly and the industry adapts in the right way.
But we can't allow slick and revolutionary new services or initiatives to simply treat tenants as cash cows in the same way that many letting agents and landlords currently do. So this is what we think the market needs - and how the tenant should benefit.
Lodgers need protection too
Where’s my deposit? It is no joking matter for nearly 300,000 tenants whose landlord has not protected their deposit.
This has left many out of pocket without a clue of how they will manage to raise another deposit - the average amount in London stands at £1040 for their next property.
Landlord licensing works - yet the government is delaying renewal of the most successful scheme
Since the east London borough of Newham introduced mandatory borough-wide licensing of all private landlords in 2013, improvements in the sector have been indisputable. Criminal landlords are being driven out of the borough, standards and safety in the sector have improved and enforcement has dramatically increased.
Yet with the scheme due to expire on 31 December 2017, government is now more than four weeks overdue in making a decision on approval of a new, five-year scheme, to start in the new year.
Tory conference announcements pull punches on housing crisis
At the General Election in June, Labour won a majority of the votes of the under-40s. This was a wake-up call for the Conservative Party, many of whose members are now filled with a new urgency to address this cohort's biggest concerns - including a rather large house-shaped one.
Their annual conference has duly been bursting with new housing policies, particularly for private renters. But while they are (for the most part) improvements, the proposals fail to address the urgency of the housing crisis.
How new rent controls could work
The biggest talking point of Jeremy Corbyn's speech to Labour Party conference this week was rent controls. Since 2014 Labour has been proposing to limit rises in rents during tenancies, but there was something different this time around.
This is what the Labour leader said on Wednesday:
We will control rents - when the younger generation’s housing costs are three times more than those of their grandparents, that is not sustainable. Rent controls exist in many cities across the world and I want our cities to have those powers too and tenants to have those protections.
Six reasons why today’s renters pay more than previous generations
The harsh reality of the UK’s sometimes savage housing market is that more people are renting their homes until later in life but paying more for the privilege of doing so than their parents did.
In England the number of private renters has increased from two million to 4.5 million between 1999 and 2015 while renting a home has been eating up a steadily increasing proportion of renters’ income, rising from 8% during the late 1960s to over 27% today, on average. Here we look at the key trends driving up rents across the nation in recent years.
Landlord tax evasion - what do we know?
A few weeks ago, the London Borough of Newham revealed that 13,000 local landlords had failed to declare their rental income, prompting estimates that £200m of tax was being evaded in London alone.
Today, Parliament has published an answer from the Treasury Minister Mel Stride to Frank Field, who asked what assessment the government had made of this. The Minister directed him (and us) to this information on tax gaps (pp54-5).
MPs debate letting fee ban
The ban on letting fees is currently the government's flagship policy to help renters, and we're currently waiting for a draft bill to be published, which follows a consultation that we and hundreds of our supporters responded to.
In the meantime, MPs gave us a taste of how the legislation will proceed in Parliament yesterday morning by debating the subject for the first time since last year's Autumn Statement.
London Housing - a new opportunity to push for greater security
Delayed from August, this week saw the publication of the London Mayor's draft housing strategy, which is now open for consultation for three months.
Covering all housing policy from leasehold reform to tackling street homelessness, the strategy also has a specific section devoted to the private rented sector. With a quarter of London's children in the private rented sector, and millions of renters living in poverty, we all know how urgently action is needed.
We'll be coming back to parts of the strategy in the coming weeks, but here we just focus on the main headlines for renters.
The strategy builds on the Mayor's manifest commitment and previous public statements, and although the Mayor lacks the powers to fundamentally transform London's PRS, there are nonetheless some steps forward and potential to go further.
The Other Waitrose Effect - the hidden costs of gentrification
Is a new Waitrose in your neighbourhood a cause for excitement, or a troubling omen for your future in the area?
A new study reveals that the high-end supermarket is linked with rising evictions of private tenants in areas they open up in.
The analysis, conducted by Oxford University academic David Adler for Generation Rent, found that the arrival of a new store was associated with an increase in the number of evictions of between 25% and 50%.
Great cheese selection, but will you be around to enjoy it?
Giving people the right to a safe home
This week saw the introduction of Karen Buck MP's Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, a private member's bill which will now have its second reading in parliament on Friday 19 January 2018.
The bill seeks to update the law requiring rented homes to be presented and maintained in a state fit for human habitation - updated because the current law only requires this of homes with a rent of up to £80 per year in London, and £52 elsewhere!
National study finds tenants optimistic but rental market oppressive
Every year the government runs the English Housing Survey. General findings are published in February, then, to the delight of housing geeks, the juicy detail on the different subsections of the market arrives in July. We've taken a look at the findings for 2015-16, published last week.
Queen's Speech 2017: are you listening Westminster?
Before today's Queen's Speech, which set out the government's parliamentary programme for the next two years, there were two theories about how housing and private renting might feature, and what kind of prominence it would be given.
If London housebuilding is reliant on overseas investment, where do we go from here?
Commissioned in Autumn 2016, the final report of the London Mayor’s investigation into the role of overseas investment in housing was published last week – but its findings can be read in very different ways.
Based on research by the LSE, its major conclusion and argument is that off-plan and pre-sales to the overseas market are integral to the current development model in London – and therefore also key to leveraging more affordable housing through section 106 agreements on those sites.
Renters vote - and cause another political upset
The results are in, and the UK's voters have delivered yet another shock.
The dust still has to settle but one thing is already apparent: the votes of renters had an impact yesterday. Twenty of the 32 seats that the Conservatives lost to Labour and the Liberal Democrats had more renters than average. Back at the 2011 census, those 32 seats had an average private renter population of 19% - it was 16% in the country as a whole.
The choice tomorrow
We haven't been posting much on here for the past few weeks as we have joined forces with ACORN on #RentersVote for the duration of the election.
There we have analysed each of the 5 UK-wide parties' manifestos and pulled it all together into one big graphic, so you can see what we made of their housing commitments side-by-side.