Want your letting fees back?
Michael Green is the founder of CaseHub.
Over the past six months, I have been working with some of the country’s leading barristers to put together a lawsuit that proves how most letting fees in England and Wales are unlawful.
The good news is that they agree.
We now need to take that case to court. The good news is that if it wins, renters will be entitled to get their letting fees back, and in future some of them might be stopped entirely.
New PM, new diagnosis of the housing crisis
Before she was fast-tracked to 10 Downing St - in one of many dramatic twists in recent weeks - Theresa May gave us a glimpse of how her housing policy might differ from David Cameron's.
Launching her leadership campaign in Birmingham on Monday, May went further than Cameron has ever done in describing the the damage that house price inflation causes:
"...unless we deal with the housing deficit, we will see house prices keep on rising. Young people will find it even harder to afford their own home. The divide between those who inherit wealth and those who don’t will become more pronounced. And more and more of the country’s money will go into expensive housing instead of more productive investments that generate more economic growth."
Open letter from Butterfields tenants: 'We do not intend to give up our homes without fighting'
Private tenants on the Butterfields Estate in London's Waltham Forest are facing evictions from affordable homes they have lived in for years, after they were sold on without their knowledge. Previously owned by a charitable trust that ensured tenancies were secure and affordable, the two streets of homes were bought up by a private business (BE17Ltd) at the start of this year.
Housing emergency drives 'blue light' workers out of London
There have been a huge number of articles written in the last fortnight about the future of Britain, with many focused on the potential effects on London’s economy of the country leaving the EU.
What must not be lost in these debates, though, is the focus on the structural problems that the city faced before the referendum. One of the most fundamental in recent years has been the fact that London’s housing crisis has forced many professionals out of the city.
Economic uncertainty means renters need security
We haven't commented on the EU referendum as a debate about the future of the country was all a bit above us. Renters are a mixed bunch and have different reasons for voting Remain or Leave.
Now that the deed is done, we're due a new Prime Minister, probably a General Election in the next year, and several years of negotiations over our relationship with Europe.
Sadiq says his plans are "ambitious but realistic"
This week will mark 50 days since Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London in an election that was defined by the capital’s housing crisis. Yet since that point private renters (and indeed all Londoners hit by its failed housing system) have had to wait patiently to hear the detail within the Mayor’s commitments.
Lords debate letting fees ban
When we published our latest research on letting fees in April, we were expecting a long fight to get the issue of banning them back on the political agenda. The Housing and Planning Act, passed in May, contained no changes to the law on fees, and the only area of housing government is currently legislating on concerns planning.
We didn't have to wait for long though. Olly Grender, a Lib Dem peer, who fought for and won some protections for renters in the Housing Act, was selected to present a private member's Bill. Happily for us, she picked fees.
#ventyourrent: a round-up
On 26th April, we launched a social media campaign called #ventyourrent on Twitter and Tumblr. We asked people to tell us on cardboard, a photo, or just a tweet, what they were paying in rent and what it bought them.
The plan was to get Londoners sharing their worst experiences of renting and generating some solidarity ahead of the Mayoral Election on 5th May. We hoped that seeing the posts would get people thinking about the housing market as a political issue that they could have some influence on. If they did, we had a handy guide for them.
It was the first campaign of its kind that we have attempted and we could not have done it without the energy of a crack team of volunteers*, the guidance of Paolo Gerbaudo of Kings College London, and the inspiration of Pierre-Emmanuel Lemaire, Yasmina Aoun, Cong Bi and Nicola Lotter of Central St Martin's MA Communication Design course.
It was a huge success, generating our biggest media story to date, attracting hundreds of submissions, and surely contributing at least a tiny bit to the highest ever turnout for a London Mayoral Election.
Now that the dust has settled, we decided to find out what #ventyourrent taught us.
The new Mayor's in-tray
London has a new Mayor. Sadiq Khan was elected last Thursday with 1.3m votes, the largest personal mandate for any British politician in history. That gives him a lot of clout in implementing his manifesto, whether that's dealing with local councils or the Westminster government.
Let's remind ourselves what he promised. On our Vote Homes comparison site, Sadiq came in behind the Green Party candidate Sian Berry with more amber policies (ones we felt were okay) than greens (policies we called for). And while he had fewer greens than the Lib Dem, Caroline Pidgeon, he had no policies we thought were terrible (marked red) to Caroline's two (on security and rent levels).
Finally, Zac and Sadiq go head-to-head on housing
After months of debate and campaigning, the London Mayoral election is imminent. Despite housing being the absolute number one issue of the election, the two frontrunners have not managed to face each other to debate it.
There have been general hustings between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, including the Evening Standard and Centre for London debate on 21 April, where, amid heated exchanges on policing, transport and extremism, the only real look-in that housing had simply highlighted the similarities between the candidates: building ambitions, first dibs for Londoners, and refusal to build on the green belt (despite Zac’s desire to paint Sadiq as a park concreter).
UKIP's answer to London's housing crisis
The final manifesto we're looking at for Vote Homes is UKIP's Peter Whittle's. Like all the other candidates, Peter recognises that housing is the biggest challenge facing London. But unlike the other candidates, he sees the cause as excess demand, rather than a shortage of supply.
What will George Galloway do for London's renters?
Letting fees - 10 areas now covered
This morning we have published six more areas on www.lettingfees.co.uk – Manchester, York, and four more London boroughs – Bromley, Camden, Lambeth and Wandsworth.
Flathunters in those areas can check to see which letting agents are charging the least, and which charge the most. These areas join four already in London, and bring the total number of letting agents covered by our website past 700.
Zac sets out his stall for renters
The Conservative candidate for London Mayor, Zac Goldsmith, has published his housing manifesto, and we've updated the Vote Homes policy grid with his offer for London's renters.
As the candidate of the governing party in Westminster, it was always going to be interesting to see if he would go any further than current government policy. One of the biggest divides between the Conservatives and the other parties is on security of tenure, and it's safe to say that Zac has stuck his neck out on this, though we're yet to be convinced that renters will benefit from his proposal.
Renters' Hustings - London Election 2016
More than a hundred people came to the Renters’ Hustings on Tuesday to hear candidates from five parties tell us what they’ll do for private renters if they’re elected as London Mayor or Assembly Member – a lively discussion chaired brilliantly by Buzzfeed’s Jim Waterson. All five candidates (Sian Berry: Green, Tom Copley: Labour, Joy Morrissey: Conservative, Zack Polanski: Lib Dem and David Kurten: UKIP) said they are private renters themselves, so perhaps they know how, er, ‘special’ it is trying to survive as a private renter in this city.
Exodus from London accelerates
The London housing crisis is taking its toll on families in the capital as they move to other parts of the UK in ever greater numbers. The net number of thirtysomethings and under-10s leaving the city has increased by 25% between 2012 and 2014 according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
We have always seen more people in these age brackets move away from London than move there, but the difference is getting bigger. In the same two-year period, rents and house prices rose three times as fast in London as the rest of Britain.
Renters have been asked to pay for their OWN pension
The Labour Party’s Independent Review of Retirement Income (IRRI) has suggested that workers should be aiming to save 15% of their salary into the pension each month, according to a BBC report.
The other week, in an FT piece that went viral, Rebecca Taylor, director at the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments, said that 25-year-olds should be aiming to pay an average of £800 a month into their pension for the next forty years. Now this is an average: less now can be balanced out by paying more later. But the message is clear: start now.
Starter homes: a £27bn raffle
The government wants to eliminate Generation Rent. I think they're talking about the demographic group, rather than our organisation. They want to replace us with Generation Buy. How cute.
Sadly, their plans so far will do nothing to reverse the growth of renting and will exacerbate the rising level of inequality between people who own their homes and those who don't.
The government's flagship policy is Starter Homes. The scheme will help 200,000 private renter households into home ownership with a 20% discount on the market price of a new home. The trouble is, if you're not in one of the lucky 200,000 - that's 4 million - you won't get a discount. You also won't get to share £26.8bn of profits when you sell your starter home - read our analysis here.
Guest post: attitudes to rent control in Ireland
In an effort to increase transparency and help Irish voters make an informed decision in tomorrow's general election, we have contacted all election candidates and asked them to say where they stand on a range of issues, including rent control. All candidates’ answers (or the answers provided by their party in some cases) are publicly available on the website www.whichcandidate.ie. Voters can also answer the questions and see which candidates they agree with in their constituency.
We asked candidates whether there should be tighter controls on rent, and candidates are almost evenly split on this question. 43% (188 candidates) said that rent increases should be capped in line with inflation; while 44% (193 candidates) said that current controls on rent were adequate. (The remaining 13% of candidates were either opposed to any controls on rent, or selected none of these options.)
Save £100s with our new resource for flathunters
If you happen to be planning a move to (or within) the London boroughs of Croydon, Ealing, Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest, then we might be able to save you a few hundred quid.
Volunteers in these areas have compiled a comprehensive list of local letting agents and their tenant fees at www.lettingfees.co.uk.
Tower Hamlets Renters have used their research to name and shame local agents
A lifetime of renting for more of us?
A flurry of news reports in the past week have told many of us what we're already thinking: more private renters are facing a lifetime of renting.
First, the Resolution Foundation said that, in ten years' time, 90% of under-35s on modest incomes will be renting for life.
Then, PwC said 40% of Londoners will be renting from a private landlord by 2025.
And today, the government-commissioned English Housing Survey found that 57% of private renters expect to buy their home - down from 61% in the previous year's report.
Wales passes a new Rented Homes Act
The Renting Homes Act for Wales passed through the Assembly at the end of 2015, but the end result was quite different from the initial Bill.
The Welsh Assembly has 60 Assembly Members (AMs) but the Welsh Labour Government only holds 30 of those seats. That means that every Bill has to have approval from one of the opposition parties – Plaid or the Lib Dems– or it won’t go through.
Will the Lords or London's next Mayor strengthen renters' rights?
Renters never really know where they'll live in 12 months' time. Even if your landlord is a charity, charging reasonable rent and letting you turn their property into a home, they could quietly sell up to a landlord who will just evict you and sell your home to the highest bidder.
Spinning the roulette wheel
If you ever wonder why we as a nation are "obsessed" with home ownership when people happily rent for life in Germany and the Netherlands, consider the number of ways you can lose your home as a renter.
Even if you pay the rent on time, take care of the property, and learn your neighbours' names, you can be forced to move if the landlord decides to sell up, raise the rent to a level you can't afford, or just doesn't renew the tenancy.
A new poll from BMG finds that 27% of current and former private renters have experienced an unwanted move.
Join our campaign for fairer tenancies
This morning, the local community in Herne Hill stopped bailiffs from evicting a 69-year-old private tenant from her home of seven years.
Her landlord, Manaquel, served her with a no-fault eviction notice which gave her no option but to move out or sit and wait to be forced out by the bailiffs.
After a notice to quit, a possession order, and a warrant from the court, the bailiffs arrived today at 9:30 to be met by 20 neighbours and local campaigners who sent them on their way.
Longer tenancies: busting some myths
Earlier this week we launched a campaign to improve security of tenure for private renters.
Achieving this is going to entail hacking through a thicket of special interests. Where it’s not the landlord replacing tenants every six months, it’s letting agents who want their annual renewal fee, or mortgage lenders demanding easy access to the property if the landlord does a runner.
Even deposit protection schemes - government-licensed organisations which supposedly exist to protect tenants - are throwing up roadblocks to reform by spreading misinformation.
Housing & Planning Bill: the good bits, the bad bits, and the silence
The Housing and Planning Bill has been announced and is making its way through the Commons. The government is using the legislation to drive through some major changes that threaten to weaken social housing and harm the poorest members of society.
But they're also embarking on some much-needed changes to the private rented sector which should help to root out illegal practices and improve renters' homes.
The Bill is silent on security for renters. At a time when millions of us have no option but to rent privately, we need to start having some protection from eviction on a landlord's whim: today we launched a petition calling for this. Please sign it and help us persuade politicians to give everyone a stable home.
Don't let mess get in the way of your deposit
This is a guest post from Joanna White of Property Principles. To write for our blog, please contact us.
Moving house is stressful enough - finding a suitable flat, packing up your things, trying to avoid paying double rent for too long. And then there's the question of whether you'll get your deposit back.
According to the Tenancy Deposit Service, 56 per cent of deposit disputes are about cleaning. Many of these end with tenants losing all or most of their deposit. It’s in everyone’s interests to reduce the number of cleaning disputes. Here are my tips for avoiding disagreements when you hand over your keys:
The London estate being torn apart by evictions
If ever there was a case for the reform of private renters' rights it's this.
Residents of Dorchester Court in Herne Hill all rent from the same landlord, Manaquel Ltd. In recent years, the company has tried putting up the rent by 30% in many cases - some of the residents managed to negotiate a lower increase, but are still paying much more than before.
This year, instead of having their tenancy renewed, the landlord has been issuing them with section 21 eviction notices - giving the tenant 2 months to leave - without giving them a reason or any option to stay.
[photo: Brixton Buzz]
MPs to debate making rented homes fit for humans
When a tenant has a landlord who refuses to make repairs to the property, the local council should be their next port of call. Unfortunately, local council environmental health teams are woefully under-resourced and many cases of unsafe housing slip through the net - there are an estimated 16% physically unsafe privately rented homes.
Where the council doesn't take action, it is technically possible for the tenant to take their landlord to court - but only if their rent is below £80 - a year. There is a requirement for landlords to ensure that homes are fit for human habitation but it's limited to rent levels last set in 1957.
Karen Buck MP is setting out today to change that.
Starter homes: another attempt to ignore the housing crisis
"Generation Buy". Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. For baby boomers and Generation X, buying a home was taken for granted, and no one calls those cohorts "Generation Buy". But David Cameron seems fond of the phrase and if it means that he’ll stretch every sinew to make it happen, fine.
First time buyer numbers plummeted a decade ago from a peak of 600,000 to 300,000 today, hence the rise of generation rent. Most private renters still want to buy a home, and the government recognises this; George Osborne said before this year’s election that he wants to double the annual number of new home owners.
But the Prime Minister won’t change anything about home ownership with the policy he talked about in his speech to Conservative Party Conference. “Starter homes” are his latest wheeze, following the failure of Help to Buy to revive aspiring home owners’ fortunes. These privately built homes will be sold at a 20% discount to first time buyers. If house prices keep rising at current trends, that means that in 2018, you’ll be able to buy a new-build flat at 2015 prices. Sorry Dave, but I won’t be opening the champagne quite yet.
People's Housing Conference - an update
Generation Rent was due to present a workshop at the first People's Housing Conference next Saturday. Unfortunately this has been postponed.
There are a couple of events coming up - World Homeless Action Day and MIPIM - that activists can get involved with. More details and a full statement are available on the People's Housing Conference website.
Know your rights as a UK tenant
Each year 1.5 million private renter households move home - that's about a third of the renter population. And each year, around 200,000 people move into private renting for the first time.
Whether you're moving out of your childhood home, or this is your fifth move in as many years, make sure you're aware of your rights. We have worked with the TDS Foundation to produce a guide to your rights as a tenant. The position of renters is slowly improving - today protections against revenge evictions come into force and landlords are required to fit smoke alarms - but it is still easy to get ripped off if you aren't prepared.
Printed copies of the guide are available from Generation Rent on request.
Once you've brushed up, test yourself with a quiz we've put together with the Mirror.
Improve renting in Wales: your help needed
The Welsh Assembly is debating a Bill that would reform the private rented sector. There are bits that are good about it but also bits that are bad, so renters in Wales need to make their voices heard to make sure the legislation actually improves things.
"Success" looks like 1 million new homes
Tonight, BBC One's Inside Out looks at the housing shortage and the desperate need to build more homes. This morning's headlines quote the housing minister Brandon Lewis telling the programme that success for the government on housebuilding would be building 1 million more homes by the end of the Parliament.
Generation Rent lives to fight another day
Generation Rent has raised enough money to keep campaigning for private renters across the UK, amassing nearly £18,000 in donations.
A month ago our future looked very bleak, with no guarantee that we would be able to survive past September. The team here has thrown everything we had at fundraising and we have been humbled by the response.
Since we launched our emergency crowdfunding campaign at the end of July, 371 people have donated a total of £17,982. With our grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust of £45,500, these funds allow us to continue our work in London and nationally with a team of two: director Betsy Dillner and communications manager Dan Wilson Craw.
How to fight a rent hike in 10 steps
There's a lot of muttering right now from the landlord lobby that they'll be putting up rents because of changes to the tax regime and expected increases in interest rates.
The threats would sound scarier if rents weren't already going up faster than inflation. The fact is many landlords will use any excuse to put up the rent when they get the chance. Many others value their tenants, and won't.
If you face a rent hike, you don't need to accept it. We've put together a 3 minute video on what to do to avoid paying too much.
Renters pay £30 a week for government housing failure
Inflation is one of those annoying things that you just have to accept and deal with - the official target is, after all, 2%. But that gives the government no excuse to allow rents to go up the way they have.
Since 1998-99, when the government started collecting data on housing costs in the Family Resources Survey, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the measure they currently use for inflation, has risen by 38%. In the same period, the median weekly rent (according to the FRS) has gone up by 80%. If rents had just matched inflation, renters would be an average of £30 better off a week.
A huge boost for our campaign
We're at the halfway stage of our campaign and although we have reached our minimum thanks to the generosity of our supporters we still have a long way to go to reach our £60,000 target.
However, we can announce today that Generation Rent has been awarded a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. The grant of £45,500 will support our campaign for rent controls ahead of the GLA elections in 2016.
The Trust exists to correct imbalances of power and strengthen the hand of organisations striving for reform. As the grant is intended for this particular campaign, it does not count towards our wider crowdfunding effort. It is nevertheless a huge boost to our organisation.
Every pound we receive takes us a step closer to a private rented sector that works for everyone. Please donate today.
55 people living in 3 homes. Fifty five.
Just when you thought you'd heard all the horror stories that the housing crisis had to offer, Barking & Dagenham Council raises the stakes. In raids yesterday morning with police, council officers found 55 people living in three houses, including 11 children.
Two of the homes had three bedrooms, but residents were crammed into every space possible, including a loft and a shed at the third property.
As more couples with children live in the PRS, will it ever be family-friendly?
Today the Department for Communities and Local government released some of the datasets underpinning the latest English Housing Survey (comprising of data up to the year 2013/2014, the most recent we have) and the central finding is no longer surprising – the private rented sector continues to grow.
How the next Mayor of London can start fixing the housing crisis
As the major parties choose their mayoral candidates for the 2016 London elections, today Generation Rent publishes a manifesto for London that that sets out a programme that any Mayor who is serious about the private rented sector should adopt. Whoever wins in May will have to be robust in demanding new powers to regulate the sector, so it's vital that politicians understand how hard private renters are being squeezed in the capital. Today renters can call on them to commit to solving the London housing crisis.
Is life outside the capital the answer for London’s renters?
Another year, another inflation-busting rent rise. Many of London's workers would be forgiven for wondering whether it wouldn't make sense just to up sticks and join the commuters vaulting the green belt every morning. Well wonder no more.
We looked at whether it is cheaper to rent outside of London and commute in by train every day, or if the capital is still worth it. The answer is the latter - just about.