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A lifetime of rent for one in three millennials – what will this mean?

Reading time: 4 mins, 11 secs

First4Lawyers, April 23, 2018

A report by the Resolution Foundation think tank has found that a third of millennials are likely to be in private rented accommodation for the rest of their lives. With so many unable to get on the housing ladder, what does this mean for their future home security?

Many find renting unpredictable, with the threat of eviction, unaffordable rent rises and landlords able to do as they please with seemingly few repercussions.

Campaign group Generation Rent argue that ‘the law is so stacked against the tenant.’ They say the main issue is that under a piece of law called ‘Section 21’, landlords are allowed to evict tenants without any reason.

Alice, 24, from Huddersfield told us about her experiences: “My partner and I moved into a relatively new build house, but it was falling apart at the seams. Being quite new to renting we hadn’t realised our landlord could evict us without reason. After we complained about a leaking shower and a leaking toilet within the same week we were served with a Section 21 notice and were left with a month to find a new property. We knew that landlords are not allowed to evict because of repairs, but we didn’t feel that we were able to fight against him.”

Many renters avoid complaining of issues within their homes for fear of similar reprisals. Christina, from London, who spoke to the BBC, was forced to accept living in a flat with a serious mouse problem and a bathroom ceiling that was black with mould as she was fearful she would be evicted if she complained.

Renters are also at the mercy of their landlords in terms of rent rises. It is up to the landlord whether they wish to increase rent at the end of each contract term, or if renters are on a rolling contract then a hike in rent can be introduced at any time.

For many these increases can be unaffordable, but the cost of moving would be even more expensive and there is always the risk of the same thing happening again at a new property. So, often, renters will just choose to put up with it.

Some tenants also report feeling unsafe due to the fact that landlords are allowed to retain a key to their property. Although landlords are supposed to give notice before entering the property, some renters have reported instances of landlords who let themselves in whenever they please. This was the case for one 30 year old woman, who spoke to the BBC but asked to remain anonymous. Again, she was too afraid to say anything for fear of being evicted, and she believes that the law does not benefit renters.

A recent inquiry by members of the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee found that tenants are in need of greater protection against rogue landlords. They concluded that landlords who exploit their tenants and break the law should have their properties confiscated by local authorities.

Clive Betts, chair of the HCLG Committee, said: "The imbalance in power in the private rented sector means vulnerable tenants often lack protection from unscrupulous landlords, who can threaten them with retaliatory rent rises and eviction if they complain about unacceptable conditions in their homes.

"Local authorities need the power to levy more substantial fines against landlords, and in the case of the most serious offenders, ultimately be able to confiscate their properties."

In response, Generation Rent criticised the MPs of the committee for not going far enough in their recommendations. They said that under these suggestions tenants would still be too fearful to complain for fear of reprisals.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said: "Councils are in a position to dispel such fears, but too many are failing to take meaningful enforcement action in response to complaints. They must do more to assure private renters whose side they are on."

Under current laws, landlords can face civil penalties up to £30,000 or can be banned from taking tenants if they break the law. However, the committee noted that there aren’t enough local resources for local authorities to be able to enforce this.

In response, Chris Norris, of the National Landlords Association said: "In the last few years we've had new laws to prevent so-called revenge evictions, greater taxation of landlords, and tougher regulation of letting agents.

"However, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of tenancies are ended by tenants, not landlords - and the majority of landlords don't simply hike rents or end tenancies without a good reason."

First4Lawyers believe that despite an increase in legislation in recent years there is clearly still an issue with renting. If a third of millennials are to be renting for the rest of their lives, these problems need to be addressed.

Obviously not all landlords are an issue, but there does need to be more protection for tenants as a whole, in terms of security, evictions and random rises in rent.

We welcome the recommendations of the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee and look forward to seeing what progress is made over the coming months.

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