Scales of Injustice?

 

 

What does one post-graduate living in Manchester have in common with 528,000 other people in the country?

He's a private renter under the age of 35.

Like a further 213,000 of private tenants last year, Georges complained to his landlord because of the state of the property and in doing so, faced potential retaliatory eviction.

Like the large majority of tenants affordability was a factor that led to him being a part of a house share.

 

During the course of their 9 month Assured Short-hold contract Georges and his house-mates witnessed their landlord commit fraud, ignore local authority interventions, fail to complete repairs, and finally lose the property as it was repossessed by the bank.

 The 11 million people privately renting in the UK today face similar problems to Georges and his fellow tenants.

The extent is highlighted by the 2014 English Housing Survey's findings that 4.4 million households or 30% of the known rented sector fall below the Government's own Decent Homes Standard.

We often hear the term 'rogue' landlord in the media. Yet the term in the context of private renting is misleading.

How can one be defined as 'rogue' in a sector which has so little controls, a sector in which our own government cannot reliably quote, leave alone monitor, the numbers of operative landlords? The unknown quantities that define the rented sector can only be touched upon through the English Housing Survey and research via organisations such as Shelter and Crisis.

In any event, figures on the sector are at best estimates of an avowedly 'diverse market' that encourages every kind of investor-speculator, with ever-decreasing moderators. A prime example is how local authorities powers to enforce were further reduced and compromised under the ConDem Government.

Rogues are defined as an 'unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person'. Or as someone 'operating outside normal or desirable controls'.

Therein lies the problem, not with the individual 'rogue' landlord, but with the Private Rented Sector as a whole, which continues to devolve into an ever more 'unreliable'system with ever fewer 'desirable controls'.

Case in point: if I bought a house tomorrow, and let it out as an investment, I could legally do the least amount necessary to educate myself on how to run the house safely. I would not need to conduct electrical safety checks on the property. I could even get away without annual gas certificates, if my tenant didn't notice or complain. If the house had a damp problem that might cause asthma or pneumonia in my tenants, I wouldn't need to declare that. 

While I can declare myself a business, and enjoy the tax breaks that accompany this status, I don't have to join any accredited professional bodies. I don't have to sign up to a registry such as Company House, as I would legally do if I declared myself a trading entity in any other industry.

Any protection I offer my customer, the tenant, comes in bare minimum form of an assured short hold tenancy contract. This can be six months or a year in length, and I can ask my tenant to leave with only eight weeks notice, if I decide to re-mortgage or put rents up.

Letting agencies encourage the 'renewal' of the tenancy contract every six months, maximising the amount of profit they and I can make, through renewal fees to the tenant, and through an opportunity to raise rents at each bi-annual 'renewal'.

The 10% wear and tear tax relief I receive to allow me to maintain my property and keep it up to a minimum decent standard is not policed, so who knows what I spend it on?

This is just a working example of how heavily weighted the private rented sector is, in favour of the 'investor' landlord.

There is little to accommodate the other investor in the picture, the tenant.

Yet when demand exceeds supply, the tenant can only invest their money in riskier and worse returns as choices narrow and prices rocket. 

To have shelter is a human necessity, no less a human right. Yet the machinations of the UK's private rented sector can take away that right within a matter of weeks, render tenants bankrupt, homeless and isolated. 

A tenant is a customer, but most of all a human-being. The dehumanizing language used by landlords about their tenants can be found on member forums such as this one, belonging to an Accredited Professional Body.

The National Housing Federation recently stated that 'during the general election, the housing crisis was barely mentioned and yet over a million children live in overcrowded accommodation. We're now building fewer houses than at any point since the Second World War. There are now 4.5 million people in housing need.'

This cultural denial and disconnect from the housing crisis was finally bridged in the run up to this General Election as Generation Rent's Director notes; however, paying lip-service isn't the same as delivering effective policy.

So tenants, campaigners, and pressure group's efforts must start from the grass-roots, upwards.

In every other commercial sector the consumer has more rights than a renter.

The only difference between Georges and the other millions of renters out there, is that he called for change and exercised his right to contest the illegality's he was being subjected to.

The Langdale Gallery Campaign, set to continue for a third installment of events this summer, was borne of Georges refusal to remain silenced by the threat of eviction and by his resolve to challenge a broken housing system.

For more information about how you could help campaign locally contact us.

Go to the social media page for more information on the Langdale Gallery Campaign

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