Housing

'Next government must fix our broken rental system': Political leaders told to stand up for renters

An open letter from the Renters Reform Coalition, signed by the Big Issue, has called for ‘immediate action to address the unprecedented crisis facing private renters’

renters are demanding the next government protects them from poverty

Renters at a London Renters Union protest in May 2024. Image: London Renters Union

Rent campaigners have urged political leaders to act to protect renters from falling into poverty and homelessness in a new open letter.

A total of 27 organisations from the Renters’ Reform Coalition, including the Big Issue, have penned a letter to Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and other political leaders, to warn that renters “cannot afford more policy failures”.

The move comes after the Renters Reform Bill failed to make it into law before Sunak announced the 4 July general election.

That meant the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto promise to scrap no-fault evictions, which allow tenants to be evicted from their homes without a landlord giving a reason, failed to materialise.

The Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change is also calling on the next government to commit to scrapping no-fault evictions in its first 12 months in charge.

“Too often politicians focus only on home ownership – but there are 12 million renters in England. We must be able to feel secure in our own homes too.” said Ben Twomey, chief executive of Generation Rent, one of the organisations in the coalition alongside Shelter, the Chartered Institute for Housing and others.

“This would mean proper protections from evictions when we have done nothing wrong, and limits on unaffordable rent rises so we can’t be turfed on to the streets at a landlord’s whim. The next government must act quickly and decisively to fix our broken renting system before countless more renters face homelessness, poverty and exploitation.”

The open letter sets outside a number of demands to address England’s renting crisis.

The coalition calls on ministers to immediately reform no-fault evictions in full, including through rent rises and new no-fault possession grounds like the intention of a landlord to sell or move family in.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have included plans to end no-fault evictions in their manifestos so far with Labour expected to follow suit.

Campaigners also want ministers to create a detailed national register of private landlords and a plan to increase energy efficiency standards for private rented homes to EPC C as soon as possible.

More funding for council enforcement to minimise landlords abusing existing and new laws, and to stamp out illegal evictions is also needed, the coalition argued, alongside increased legal funding to help tenants fight evictions. 

Anny Cullum, political officer at tenants union Acorn, said: “Renters have been waiting for five years for the change they need and deserve; an end to no fault evictions, improved standards and proper enforcement, the ability to make their house a home without fear of losing the roof over their head for no reason.

“The next government must make the changes renters need, lifting the burden of insecurity and poor standards from 12 million tenants in England.”

The open letter reads in full:

Dear Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, Ed Davey, Nigel Farage, Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay,

We write as groups representing and working alongside private renters in England to call for you to commit to urgent action to address the unprecedented crisis facing renters in this country.

Renters in England face constant insecurity – the threat of no-fault eviction hanging over their heads and preventing them from ever feeling rooted in their communities. It is little wonder then that more than a quarter of all private renters have lived in three or more privately rented homes in the previous five years, and average tenancy lengths are well below other European countries. 

England’s private rented sector is rife with disrepair and poor conditions. 22% of privately renting households reported avoiding making complaints for fear of being evicted. This fear is not unfounded, with 46% of those who complain about conditions receiving a section 21 notice within six months. The result is the shocking situation we now find ourselves in, where 21% of private rented sector dwellings fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard.

Meanwhile, the most recent data shows rents rose by 9 per cent annually – the highest increase on record. Large swathes of households on low incomes are being charged rents they cannot afford, without access to alternative housing options. This has led to an ever-escalating number of people being made homeless, and an increasingly untenable financial strain on local authorities due to the number of households trapped in temporary accommodation – pushing many towards bankruptcy.

Given the commitments made in manifestos at the 2019 General Election, the failure to pass a Renters Reform Bill that delivered on these commitments in the 2019-2024 Parliament was a huge disappointment. The next tranche of homelessness statistics will likely show the number of households made homeless as a result of section 21 evictions since then to have reached 100,000 – a shameful number. Clearly, renters cannot afford more policy failures.

To meet the scale of this emergency, commitment to urgent action is needed. We call on you to set out:

  • Immediate reform of private tenancies that abolishes no-fault evictions in full, including those that take place through unaffordable in-tenancy rent increases and any proposed new mandatory eviction grounds, with longer notice periods when evictions are taking place and severe penalties for landlords who abuse the new system.
  • A national register of private landlords, to work alongside existing licensing schemes, which includes: the landlord’s contact and address details; past enforcement action against the landlord; eviction notices to be registered; basic safety information and Energy Performance Certificates; up-to-date information about the current and previous rents charged for the property.
  • A clear plan to raise energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector to EPC C as soon as possible, backed by appropriate resources to support delivery.
  • New funding and an ambitious plan to improve local authority enforcement capabilities to support the above and crack down on illegal evictions.
  • Increased legal aid funding so that all renters are able to access timely legal advice, and can have their case heard before a judge that has the discretion to deny an eviction when circumstances require.

By setting out a commitment to the above, you can help achieve a future for renters where their housing is more affordable, more secure, and better quality, and where they are treated with respect by their landlord and the state. 

As this General Election campaign develops, we look forward to hearing how you intend to deliver this.

Yours sincerely

Victoria Benson, CEO, Gingerbread

The Tenants’ Association of the National Trust

Samantha Stewart, Interim CEO, Nationwide Foundation

Ayla Ozmen, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Z2K

David Gibson, Campaign Co-ordinator, Brighton Living Rent Campaign

Jacky Peacock, Facilitator, Fairer Housing

Polly Neate, CEO, Shelter

Ben Twomey, CEO, Generation Rent

Gavin Smart, CEO, Chartered Institute of Housing

Laura Coyle, Co-Chair, Housing Law Practitioners Association

Hannah Peaker, Director of Policy and Advocacy, New Economics Foundation

Chelsea Phillips, National Chair, ACORN the Union

Chloe Field, Vice President of Higher Education, NUS

Darren Baxter, Principal Policy Adviser, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Roz Spencer, Head of Service, Safer Renting

Tracy Harrison, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Northern Housing Consortium

Cherryl Henry-Leach, CEO, Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse

Fiona Colley, Director of Social Change, Homeless Link

Chris Moore, Secretary, Greater Manchester Tenants Union

Sue James, CEO, Legal Action Group

Siobhan Donnachie, Campaigns Officer, London Renters’ Union

Rebecca Sycamore, Chief Executive, Toynbee Hall

Jordi López-Botey, Economic Justice Campaign & Programme Lead, Medact

Robert Taylor, Organiser, Camden Federation of Private Tenants

Joe Cole, Chief Executive, Advice 4 Renters

Richard Lane, Chief Client Officer, StepChange Debt Charity

Big Issue Group

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