To end the housing crisis, we need to bring about changes for renters now
As we approach the General Election politicians from all parties are trading promises – thousands, hundreds of thousands, half a million homes to be built in the course of the next parliament.
It’s great that all the major parties understand that we need more homes. But undersupply is only part of the problem. The size and tenure of these homes is also important, as is removing the barriers to renters accessing them through the private rental market and supporting private renters to enjoy settled and safe housing without living in fear of rogue landlords.
Solving the housing crisis within a generation is a laudable aim – but we need strong action now to ensure that millions of private renters start to see improvements immediately.
Up to now, the rate of progress hasn’t been encouraging. At Citizens Advice, we first highlighted issues in the private rented sector through our reports The Tenants Dilemma (2007) and Let Down (2009). Yet almost a decade later little has changed.
We recently carried out updated research – Still Let Down – which shows that letting agents continue to charge high, unclear and often inexplicable fees for the basic services required to rent a home. We’re pleased that from October 1 the Consumer Rights Act will make it an offence punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 to hide fees when advertising homes for rent, but our research found that fees for something as basic as a reference check range from £6 to £300 – even if these fees are transparent, how can they be fair?
We’re now investigating how further adoption of landlord licensing schemes, social lettings agencies and other forms of local intervention might be used by local authorities to tackle the issues faced by renters in accessing good quality, affordable rented homes.
These aim to ensure a level playing field where rogues can’t undercut good landlords, to incentivise good practice and support those landlords providing homes of the size and tenure needed locally, and to drive up standards for private renters everywhere.
That’s why, to end the housing crisis, we need to bring about changes for renters now – not just for the next generation, but for today.
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