Friday, 18 October 2013

Housing: Which Century Are we in?

As more people are priced out of homeownership more and more are having to rent. That combined with the lack of social housing means we now have 9 million people across England renting their homes from private landlords. But renting isn't working.
This is partly due to a small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords who continue to make their tenants' lives a misery through high rents but with no or little management. These landlords condemn their tenants to living in rundown, unsafe or overcrowded homes. They often neglect their properties and intimidate those who speak out, threatening them with eviction or even violence.
It's difficult to overemphasize just how serious the impact of these landlords can be. Research shows that one in nine renters say their health has been affected by their landlord failing to carry out repairs or deal with poor conditions in their home. They have the uncertainty of unsecure tenancies in properties that even Charles Dickens would be shocked at.
Governments need to take action and not shy away from responsibility. Many families in the private rented sector have been placed there by their Local Authority, who do not have access to affordable rented housing in the public sector. These families and vulnerable single people are then left to the mercy of landlords just out for a quick profit and in many cases using tax payers money in the form of housing benefit to line their pockets.
All this is made worse by new rules that risk turning England into a ‘knife-edge nation’, where losing your job puts you at immediate risk of losing your home.
As ordinary families struggle to make ends meet as we see the removal of a vital protection measure designed to help people get back on their feet after losing their jobs. Under the coming changes, financial help available to renters during the first three months after they lose their job will be dramatically reduced.
The changes this autumn will mean that, in over a quarter of the country, a family paying a typical rent on an average three bedroom home would need to find an extra £100 a month or more as soon as they became unemployed, or risk losing their home.
Six in ten renters surveyed said that having to find up to £100 a month would make it impossible for them to pay their rent, while nearly two in five renters (38%) said that they could not afford to find any extra money at all.
It can’t and must not continue.
One thing councils can do is to set theie own ‘Tenant’s Charter’. Shelter the housing and homelessness charity, have been calling on councils to take a tough stance against rogue landlords operating in their area.
By signing up to the 'Evict Rogue Landlords' campaign, Councils can commit to using all of the tools at their disposal to crack down on landlords who are ignoring their responsibilities and causing misery to local families.
Shelter have launched a guide to the best examples of rogue landlord enforcement seen across the country. These are based on in-depth interviews and conversations we've been having with the many councils who have signed up to our Evict Rogue Landlords campaign over the last year.
How councils can beat rogue landlords
• Manage and inspect properties to make sure that they are appropriate homes for renters.
• Provide the appropriate resources and support for local enforcement teams.
• Be tough on rogue landlords, and publicise your tough stance in the local press.
• Offer advice to renters and give them the support they need to bring complaints to the council.
• Implement a clear complaints procedure and harness the skills of other agencies.
• Introduce accreditation and licensing schemes for private landlords.
• Educate tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to renting property.

With rents rising and hosue building faliling to meet need Government must act and act now.

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