Pollyanna from Generation Rent, spoke with the Manchester Friends of the Earth Volunteer group about her work and the history of the organisation.Generation Rent is a tenants rights organisation that works on the basis that decent housing is a fundamental human right and is one is not being met in the UK under the current government.
The number of people in poverty can often be attributed to poor quality, high rent housing, and the lack of tenants rights to improve this. They are the national representative group for tenants views, and are building a movement for tenants rights.
Private landlords make an astonishing £ 77.7 Billion each year, and overall £177 Billion during the last 5 years of the current government with over nine million people paying rent to them in the UK.
Yet while the sector is lucrative rights of private tenants who fund it, are poor. If you happen to live in a privately rented house, and there are leaks, boiler breakages, or damp, you can speak to your landlord about it but you can do little to force them to fix the problem. And to make things worse, tenants can be kicked out from a "revenge eviction", which could be asking the landlord for repairs or improvements to the house.
Even with the recent legislation changes in the application of Section 21 no fault evictions can and are still carried out, with Salford, Greater Manchester seeing the highest number of tenant evictions on record over the last year.
One group member who's identity is protected for legal reasons, talked about how their home has extreme damp which is so bad it even generates puddles; yet their landlord and property maintenance officers have insinuated that the tenant is imagining things and have stated their is no damp. An independent enquiry launched by the afflicted tenant revealed the damp levels were 'extremely severe' and dangerous to health.
Pollyanna says this kind of behaviour is increasingly common, as private tenants lack any real leverage in the current unregulated housing system, without necessary legal structures to help their needs be taken on board and answered.
An example of this systems deep failings are evidenced by the fact that one person dies every week from poor electrics in rented houses. Yet there is little that tenants can under current laws. Many landlords do not advertise their property's Environmental Performance Certificates, which they are required to do, to show that there is reasonable insulation, electrics and heating among other things.
The majority of private landlords do not have training, or necessarily understand the laws, because there is no requirement and many private landlords rent a house 'on the side' as it is not their main income. Adding to this, there is no register of landlords required, so 'rogue' landlords who break the law can continue to operate. However, City Wide schemes, and borough wide licensing, are taking off with Newham in London and Liverpool in the Northwest being prime examples.
With many MPs as private landlords, there is clearly some conflict of interest, and they may not want tougher laws because it makes letting more difficult.
Currently it's also an awful deal for the taxpayer. With so many tenants getting housing benefits, £24bn of taxpayers money is going straight to landlords, and landlords get 10% tax relief on rent income for repairs. They do not have to produce any proof that they have even done any repairs.
Generation Rent are asking for people to contact their MPs asking them to support Generation Rent's manifesto which 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 professionalism 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.
The whole manifesto is at http://www.generationrent.org/manifesto_launch. Pollyanna also asks for people to contact their MPs when they have problems with their landlord, this will help highlight how big the problem is, as well as housing charities such as Shelter.
There is an event on the 28th Febuary at the Friends Meeting House by Real Media which will cover some of these issues http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2015/01/519248.html. There is also a community art exhibition, Langdale Gallery where a tenant in Rusholme is opening their house as an art gallery, that will display pictures and exhibits from other renters. This is taking place on Langdale Road Rusholme, from 1st March to 7th March.