It never rains...
There has been a flurry of bad news for renters over the past few days.
- According to Homelet, rents have risen by 8.2% in the past year.
- One in five Londoners has no disposable income at the end of the month, according to the Centre for London, which has coined the term "Endies" in their report, "Hollow Promise".
- Shelter has found that the Bank of Mum and Dad is shelling out £23,000 on average to help their kids into a home of their own.
- The National Housing Federation has found that a first time buyer today has to raise a deposit 10 times bigger than their parents would have - after taking inflation into account.
- And this morning, it's the turn of the Office for National Statistics to tell us that house prices have jumped 13.5% for first time buyers in the past year. That's another £5000 to find this past year alone - and the picture is even worse in London.
Politicians are waking up to the fact that the 9 million private renters being shut out of home ownership and social housing need a stable, decent and affordable home. Only last week the government announced its support for a Bill to end revenge evictions.
But we need to keep the pressure on - both to reform private renting and build more genuinely affordable homes. To do that we need your voice - so please sign up to the campaign.
London Assembly backs our Renters' Manifesto
London Assembly members voted this afternoon to back Generation Rent's Manifesto. This is a fantastic endorsement of the work we are doing from politicians in the heart of the country's housing crisis.
Two million people - a quarter of the London population - rents from a private landlord, and the unaffordability, poor conditions and insecurity of tenure are all high on the agenda. A poll from the Association of Residential Letting Agents today said that 43% of London's renters have had reservations about their landlord or letting agent on day one of their tenancy.
The Housing Enforcers: a documentary with respect for tenants
I don’t mind admitting that the thought of a TV programme presented by Matt Allwright (of Rogue Traders) and based upon lifting the lid on the work of UK housing officers filled me with dread. Would ‘The Housing Enforcers’ be the ‘Benefits Street’ of the private rented sector? Who would Mr Allwright be directing his anger towards? Would a motorbike be involved? However, after the first episode, I feel rather more positive. Instead of simply cataloguing a whole list of tenant failings (my fear), this programme endeavoured to take a balanced and somewhat broad approach to the issue of how sometimes the places people live in are just not up to scratch.
24 hours to win £40,000 (and help renters)
Tomorrow lunchtime is deadline for the Housing Open Data Challenge. http://www.nesta.org.uk/housing-open-data-challenge
The process for entering the challenge is
- Sign up to Collabfinder (this requires having a facebook account) http://collabfinder.com/groups/housing-open-data-challenge
- Create a project in Collabfinder
3 finalist teams get £5,000 to build a proof of concept. The winning team gets £40,000 to build it.
Entrants don’t originally have to be in a team – they can enter as an individual - and if they lack any tech skills for example, we’ll help network them with potentially useful team members. This report has some free ideas in it too if anyone wants to take them forward.
Do you know who might be interested into applying? Incidentally, I’m neither a judge nor entrant in this competition – I’m a sort of cheerleader.
Director, Generation Rent
Getting on the housing ladder is murder
Melsonby sub-postmistress Diana Garbutt was found dead in her home in March 2010. Her husband Robin was arrested three weeks later and was subsequently found guilty of her murder.
Unoccupied since the crime, the only shop in the North Yorkshire village, along with its attached living quarters, has now been sold on at a knock down price.
No light at the end of the tunnel for the Housing Pinched
Today was marked by the signing of a new contract at work. As well as being my first contract for a long time without a specified end date, it brings with it the promise of a modest, but extremely welcome increase in salary. Welcome since over the last five years I have noted that the combination of taking care of a family, paying for an appropriately sized privately rented house, whilst commuting by train to work has meant that the money I’ve had available after all the bills have been paid, has been shrinking year on year.
It seems I’m not the only one and indeed my situation has been much more comfortable than that of others. The Resolution Foundation recently published research which shines the spotlight on that sector of the UK population who spend over half of their disposable income on ongoing housing costs: the so-called 'housing pinched'. Their findings are significant and depressing. Data relating to 2011-12 shows that 1.6 million households were 'housing pinched'. Of those just under 1 million households (that’s 2.2 million people) were in work. To put this into perspective, in 2012 the Resolution Foundation reports that the average household spent £60 on each of the following: food, non-alcoholic drinks, transport, recreation & leisure. The ‘housing pinched’ on average had £60 a week left for absolutely everything.
Housing market slowing - unless you're a first time buyer
Is house price inflation starting to slow? Across the whole market, it would seem so, with the Office for National Statistics finding inflation fell from 10.4% in May to 10.2% in June. That is still well above anything that's remotely healthy - and house prices were already historically expensive, even after the 2008 crash.
But first time buyers have it particularly bad. If you want to buy a house, prices are now 12 percent higher than they were a year ago (in May inflation was running at 11.3%). For people who already own a house and want to move, they are seeing a slowdown - from 10% to 9.5%.
How to build loads of truly and permanently affordable homes, without spending any money
At Generation Rent, we've listened to lots of experts who have analysed the housing crisis and have come to a conclusion. The principle problem is that you can't just buy or rent a home, you have to pay for an investment too. Some people say the problem is supply - and that's true - but the supply problem exists because of the inability to supply homes that people need without charging them a high price because of a potential future investment return.
And so we've been looking at how you can decouple the investment value of a home for an investor from its utility value to the person living there. And we came up with this. Britain needs a second housing market. A bubble-free housing market for people who only want a home, sitting neatly alongside a free market for those people who want an investment.
So we're calling for a secondary, bubble-free housing market - and we need your support to get politicians to adopt it and implement it. Join Generation Rent today (it's free) and help us campaign for real, effective solutions to the housing crisis.
Shop around: How renters can save on their energy bills
Last month Ofgem launched their ‘Be An Energy Shopper’ campaign to encourage tenants to switch energy suppliers when they can make savings and to overcome the hurdles that many may see perceive in the switching process.
New job opportunity at Generation Rent
Generation Rent has grown this year and is now recruiting for a Policy and Communications Officer to support our parliamentary and public work on a fixed-term, one-year contract.
Council gets tough on letting agents
Newham Council has claimed to be the first local authority in the country to tackle letting agents who are flouting the law.
An initiative by the council to tackle poor practice by lettings agents and protect tenants has helped to improve standards in the profession with the majority of agents now complying with the law.
Government offers guidance on how to rent
In June, the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a new guide for private rented sector tenants titled How to rent: the checklist for renting in England. With this guide the government want to give the country’s 9 million tenants access to understandable information for renting property in England.
Major letting agent backs all-custodial deposit protection
Eric Walker is Managing Director of Northwood UK and tweets at @justericwalker
We in the property industry have more common ground with the likes of Generation Rent and Shelter than many would think. Professional agents do an immense job and provide a valuable service to help protect consumers from the small minority of rogue agents. MPs call for regulation every day, yet the only group which can change the law is in fact the politicians who refuse to do so.
This Government wants agents to regulate themselves. Their reason is in no small part due to the horrors which would be uncovered if agents were forced to regulate. Clients' money should be held in a ‘ring-fenced’ client account, but while this may protect money from creditors, it is not ring-fenced from the agent. If their business is struggling, there is little point in seeking bank assistance and as such, clients' money is a very tempting resource.
Win £10k to set up a Community Land Trust
Would you like to take control of your area and create permanently affordable homes?
The Community Land Trust Network, supported by the Oak Foundation, is offering 20 grants of up to £10,000 each to support the set up or development of new CLTs in urban areas. CLTs are volunteer-led, community-run non-profit organisations that develop permanently affordable homes, workspaces or other land-based assets in their area. In addition to the cash grant, the CLT Network is also offering a package of training, advice and other support to the 20 winners.
Ministerial misconceptions about housing benefit
A recent government update on the UK’s benefit system revealed that five million people are claiming housing benefit. It’s therefore of no surprise that comments by the previous Minister of Housing, Kris Hopkins, regarding renting housing while receiving this benefit enraged and worried many, including MPs. In a Panorama documentary aired last month, Hopkins described the landlord’s right to evict those on benefits as “perfectly legitimate”, sparking fury amongst those who utilise this country’s financial support system. However, was Hopkins right? Is the tenancy completely dependent on the wishes of the landlord? Or, is this yet another case of discrimination against those who aren’t rich enough to be heard?
Landlords milking two days wages a week from tenants
Private renters spend 40% of their income on rent, compared with owner occupiers whose mortgage payments average 20% of income, according to the Government's English Housing Survey published this morning.
That means that renters spend two days a week working to pay off their landlords mortgage - most would prefer to be paying off their own, but house prices are far too expensive. It's hard to see how this could be characterised as anything other than exploitation.
An initial set of figures for 2012-13 was published in February - today's more detailed look reveals that:
- Only half of private renters agree that living in their sector is a good way to occupy a home, rather lower than in the other two main tenure groups.
- 73% of private renters were aged under 45 compared with 37% of social renters and just one quarter (27%) of owner occupiers
- A fifth of private renters last year were couples with children - up from 12% in 2008-09
- Over half (55%) of private renters said they anticipated owning their own home in the longer-term. Around a quarter (27%) reported that they expected to still be renting from a private landlord in the longer-term.
Half of renters feel ripped off
Nearly half of private renters feel they have been ripped off by their landlord or letting agent, according to a poll commissioned by Ocean Finance (reported by Mortgage Introducer).
The biggest problem, cited by around half of unhappy renters, was the delay - or, indeed, complete failure - to get repairs carried out. This was followed by withholding of the deposit at the end of the tenancy (37%), or making unreasonable deductions from it (25%). Unreasonable rent rises and rip-off admin fees at the start of the tenancy affected around 23% of respondents.
These findings support work Generation Rent is already doing to improve the lives of renters. Only yesterday we published a consultation on new ways to help tenants recover their deposits.
We are also calling on politicians to strengthen tenants' rights when requesting repairs by protecting them from revenge evictions. Our proposals for a long term tenancy would ensure that landlords couldn't impose inflation-busting rent increases, while we argue that letting agents - who work for landlords - should not be able to pass on fees to tenants. Further information is in our Renters Manifesto.
What to do about letting agents...
Yesterday I was asked a surprisingly difficult question. I was asked what I thought of charities and local authorities setting up "ethical" letting agencies. The fact is I haven't given huge amounts of thought to it - though our office is maintaining a watching brief on their activities and seeing what can be learnt.
So I had to retreat to an instinctive (and unpopular) no. It seems inconceivably that the state or non-profit sector could or should compete in this space cost effectively. We're glad they do so as they are a rare respite for people who are routinely exploited, but on being scrutinised on the issue, I just couldn't see how they could be scaled to have a beneficial impact for millions of people.
I have had a think now, and while I did so fully prepared to explain why I had been wrong and have changed my mind, I haven't. I really don't think such projects are a solution to the letting agency problem. But as a representative of a tenant advocacy group, this does bear some explaining.
MPs to debate housing supply on Wednesday
The government insists that it’s doing all it can to end the housing crisis by ramping up the rate of house building. So far it’s managed a modest bump, but earlier this week, we learned that it's forecasting another dip in 2014/15.
At a time when we need to double house building to keep rents and house prices affordable, to think that the government could allow a fall like this is staggering.
The Labour Party is calling a debate on the issue in Parliament next Wednesday, 9th July, to examine what has gone wrong and what can be done to boost supply.
What we could learn from the Swedish renting model
The coalition always seem very keen to look at what’s happening in Sweden and see what we could all learn from how they operate. Free schools, equality and healthcare are all models that have been viewed by jealous eyes in Westminster of how to do the right thing affordably. David Cameron himself is a close friend of the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
The one model that has never been mentioned in the UK politics debate is the Swedish housing model.
I have lived here in Sweden for three years now and I have discussed housing & renting with many Swedes whose eyebrows rise when I explain to them how the UK private rental sector works and the sums of cash involved.
I also have experienced first hand how housing works here and there are some startling rules that govern both buying and renting homes, I’m not certain if it’s a deliberate ploy to keep prices in check or simply just the “Swedish” way.
Long overdue: Time to improve electrical safety for renters
Generation Rent was very happy to attend the launch of a new report on electrical safety in the private rented sector last week, entitled ‘Home Improvement: Tackling Poor Electrical Safety in the Private Rented Sector’.
"Taxpayers get a great deal from landlord regulation"
Alex Hilton from Generation Rent supporting the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Private Rented Sector in calling for tougher landlord regulation
You can see the BBC News item here
Landlords waver on national register
Landlord representatives this week signalled they are ready to back down on their long standing opposition to the creation of a national register of landlords.
The easy way to implement a national register of landlords
A low cost implementation of a National Register of Landlords
The last time the government seriously considered implementing a National Register of Landlords (more accurately a register of tenancies) it was estimated that the cost would be £300 million. The proposal was parked, however, we suspect this figure was derived by simply asking well known consultancy firms what they would charge to deliver it.
Generation Rent, and previously as the National Private Tenants Organisation, has been calling for landlord registration for years. This briefing outlines the principal benefit of a register and a low cost means for implementation.
Half of Londoners want a house price fall
Alex Hilton (me) brandishing the Evening Standard today
The Evening Standard today splashes on an exclusive YouGov poll in which 50% of Londoners want house prices to decrease. The Housing Minister Kris Hopkins, Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson have all stated publicly that they want house price rises to continue.
With half of Britain's renters in London and the South East, these powerful politicians are increasingly at odds with the public's day to day experience of the economy. They are also ignoring warnings from the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who has called the current state of the housing market "the biggest single threat to the economic recovery".
Right now, politicians seem happy for a free housing market to grind down renters as long as homeowners and landlords are content, and so they have offered no real solutions. We have offered a solution. Our paper, Buying out of the Bubble, outlines how a secondary, bubble-free housing market can be developed, offering low cost housing to people willing to forego free market-level returns in capital gain or rents.
A secondary housing market would provide affordable housing for those people who just want a home, not an investment, while insulating the free market from what will otherwise become a traumatic market adjustment, with dire consequences for London's economy.
Sign up as a supporter of Generation Rent and help us win a better deal for renters.
Director, Generation Rent
£40,000 competition to help renters with open data
Nesta and the Open Data Institute are offering a cash prize of £40,000 to the team that can devise the best way of using publicly available data to improve the lives of renters.
The Housing Open Data Challenge has been launched today at the HouseParty Unconference in Manchester. The Challenge invites businesses, startups, social enterprises and community groups to collaborate and compete with each other to answer the question, "How can we use open data to help people get the best out of renting?"
Get your MP to back renters
It was announced on Thursday that the House of Commons will be debating the Private Renting Sector next Wednesday 25th June from about 12.30-5pm.
There are over 9 million private renters in Britain increasingly getting a rough deal from landlords and letting agents. We’d like you write to your MP asking them to back our renters’ manifesto to create a fair and sustainable rental market for both tenants and landlords.
We’re also calling for a secondary, bubble-free housing market for those people who just want to buy or rent a home for a reasonable cost rather than an investment at a high cost.
MPs sold on our manifesto policies
On Tuesday evening we marked the launch of the Renters’ Manifesto with a reception in Westminster. We were honoured to have both Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, Emma Reynolds, and Cambridge’s Liberal Democrat MP, Julian Huppert, speak at the event and set out their priorities for reforming private renting.
Emma Reynolds MP and Julian Huppert MP address the Generation Rent launch reception
Buying out of the bubble
This week we published our renters’ manifesto, a portfolio of reforms that will end the exploitation of tenants while ensuring a fair and sustainable market for landlords.
But the cause of the problems in the private rented sector often track back to the limited supply compared to the demand for homes and the effect this has on rental prices.
Generation Rent launches Renters' Manifesto today
Generation Rent has today challenged politicians to offer the electorate ambitious solutions to fix the housing crisis, as we launch our Renters’ Manifesto.
In the manifesto, which follows a public consultation, Generation Rent proposes:
- Reform of the private rental market, which currently fails the millions of renters now stuck there, with the right to a five-year tenancy and professionalization of landlords and letting agents.
- A new housing market that allows buyers to opt-out of rising house prices in return for a lower initial price.
- A new department with a remit to fix the housing crisis and save the taxpayer billions.
Nine million people in England – or nearly 4 million households – rent from a private landlord. Generation Rent has found that this figure has increased by an average of 180,000 households per year over the past decade as home ownership has fallen out of reach for more people. While mortgages for first time buyers were up by 50,000 in 2013 to 268,800 this is unlikely to reverse the long term growth of renting, especially with new rules that make it more difficult to get a mortgage and competition for houses from pensioners who will be free to use savings to invest in buy-to-let.
There are enough private renters with no party allegiance to overturn the majority in 86 constituencies at next year’s General Election. This Manifesto offers political parties policies that will help them win over this newly important electorate.
£5 million spent on renting MPs' second homes
Are garden cities the answer to the housing crisis?
Next year’s General Election will be decided by generation rent. There are 86 seats with enough private renters without party allegiance to overturn the incumbent MP’s majority, so every party should be courting their vote. After Labour’s pitch on rent reforms, the Coalition parties have used the Queen’s Speech to respond with their own grand plan: garden cities, and legislation to reform planning laws to bring them about.
The housing crisis is splitting the country in two
The number of houses being left empty has increased by 25% in the past decade - and so has the number of households with 6 or more people. That's according to the Office for National Statistics, which has published analysis of household composition data from the 2011 census.
It's already well-documented that private renting has risen as fewer people are able to afford to buy a house, but these two statistics are a stark illustration of the growing inequality in British society as a result of the broken housing market. The 3 million-plus people crammed into the 543,000 households of 6 or more would be a bit annoyed to know that there are over 1 million homes around the country that are going spare.
Boris' Rental Standard may not help a single tenant
Today (Wednesday 28th May) in Haringey, London Mayor Boris Johnson launches his refreshed London Rental Standard, an accreditation scheme for landlords. We're not impressed and doubt this scheme will help one single tenant.
Deposit schemes fail to close rip-off loophole
The three tenancy deposit protection schemes have rejected our calls to close a loophole that enables rogue landlords to abscond with their tenants’ money.
Seb and I met the three government-backed schemes – MyDeposits, the Deposit Protection Service and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme – earlier this month to propose changes to prevent tenants’ money becoming unprotected should their landlord or letting agent be expelled from a scheme.
7 mistakes to avoid when renting a new home
The housing market is always changing and expanding, and more people are now renting privately than ever. However, with the increase in demand comes an increase in the amount of letting agents who are willing to try and get as much money as they can.
Mark Carney and how the house price boom could scupper the economy
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's warning this week that the housing market represents the principle threat to the economic recovery created a media shock, but little response from those in power. This displays a lack of understanding at senior levels of the scale and immediacy of this threat.
No let-up for house price inflation
House prices continue to outpace wages. Hot on the heels of Mark Carney's interview with Sky News and David Cameron's interview on this morning's Today Programme, the Office for National Statistics published its House Price Index, which confirmed that there’s no let-up for first time buyers, who are facing double-digit inflation and stagnant wages.
What should be in the Renter's Manifesto?
There is one year until the 2015 General Election and housing will be a central issue. We are deep in a housing crisis and radical action will be needed, whoever is in government once the votes are counted.
Letting fees ban - how MPs voted
We've had a number of requests to publish the list of how MPs voted in the failed bid to outlaw letting agent fees to tenants. You can see the full list here.
This campaign isn't dead though. We'll be working with enlightened Peers to bring this back in the Lords. Unlike MPs, Lords don't get their letting agent fees paid on expenses so we're expecting more support.
Deposits gone for a Burton
You may have seen us on Channel 4 News recently discussing their investigation into rent-to-rent landlord Daniel Burton. Just to update you, we met yesterday with the heads of all three schemes to discuss how tenants can be protected from people like Burton.
We had a very productive meeting and we will continue to discuss a range of ideas on issues around the Daniel Burton story. We'll let you know how these discussions progress.
MPs snub renters over letting fees
The Government yesterday backed letting agents over renters by refusing to ban fees to tenants. In voting on the Consumer Rights Bill, Conservative and LibDem whips defeated the ban 281 to 228. The Government instead promised new fines for agents who don’t publish their fee tariff.
MPs to vote on ban letting agent fees
On Tuesday 13th May MPs will be voting on an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill that will ban letting agent fees to tenants.
Please sign up to our campaign here and use the form below to write to your MP asking them to back this amendment. You can edit the text of the draft letter below if you like. Just click on it to edit.
Why banning letting agent fees won't push up rents
Supply and demand.
Oh you wanted more than that? Ok.
There is short supply and high demand for homes to rent. The balance between these forms a price that a tenant is willing to pay a landlord. So far not controversial.
However, that is not how the relationship between tenant and agent is characterised. At the time of signing a contract, the agent is the gatekeeper to a single home with any number of keen tenants. The agent is not an actor in the market for homes to rent but a creator of micro-monopolies for single homes.