NEW REASEARCH BY CITIZENS ADVICE shows the charity is now helping one person every minute with problems relating to renting from a private landlord in England.
In the first two months of this year, the charity saw a 40 per cent increase in people seeking one-to-one advice on issues relating to the private rented sector compared to the same period in 2020.
In March 2020, the UK Government announced a ban on most eviction proceedings. That ban was extended several times and is in place until 31 May 2021. However, its conditions have been altered so tenants with more than six months rent outstanding can now be served with an eviction notice. This includes people who have built up arrears during the pandemic.
Polling by Citizens Advice, through its national Tenants’ Voice panel, shows private renters are still concerned by the threat of eviction despite the ban. A third said they had been worried about the issue in the last three months.
Figures from the charity’s website show In the first two months of the year, 69,000 people viewed its advice pages dealing with problems related to private tenancies.
Citizens Advice also helped 16,530 people with one-to-one advice on these issues in the same two-month period. That’s one every minute during office hours. This includes:
4,781 (29 per cent) who had problems with repairs or maintenance
1,541 (nine per cent) who were worried about possession action not related to rent arrears
848 (five per cent) who reported harassment by their landlord
670 (four per cent) who wanted help with a possible illegal eviction.
The Tenants’ Voice panel also found two thirds of those surveyed had experienced problems with maintenance or disrepair in the last three months.
Sophia, a teaching assistant, is the single parent of a toddler. She also cares for her disabled father who lives with her and her daughter. She went to Citizens Advice for help when she was issued with a Section 21 eviction notice by her landlord after complaining about maintenance problems, including extended periods without heating or hot water.
She has paid hundreds of pounds out of her own money for repairs. This has left her struggling to afford the rent and her landlord has said he’s charging her 8.1 per cent interest a day for late rent. Sophia said: “I have had to wash up in the bath, wash my daughter’s clothes in the bath. She has woken up cold in the night, it’s been a nightmare. Previously we always paid our rent 100 per cent – even throughout the pandemic.
“I’m a wreck. I can’t sleep. I am up every night at 3am in the morning and throwing up worrying about it. I have until the end of May to find somewhere to live.”
Citizens Advice says the forthcoming Renters’ Reform Bill is an opportunity to lay the foundations of a more equitable private rented sector. The charity wants:
An end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions as promised by the government in 2019
Indefinite tenancies used as standard, to give renters more certainty and flexibility, and reduce their exposure to annual rent increases.
A new National Housing Body and register to set consistent standards, give tenants greater protection, and help responsible landlords
Alistair Cromwell, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government’s eviction ban helped private tenants feel more secure during the pandemic. But it’s been a case of papering over the cracks.
“Our research paints a disturbing picture of a private rental market in which tenants pay high rents on badly maintained properties, while living in constant fear that any complaint could result in summary eviction.
“The Renters’ Reform Bill is an opportunity to lay better foundations for a more equitable private rental market which provides better quality housing and helps tenants feel more settled in their homes.”
A Citizens Advice report in January New Year Same Arrears showed:
Half a million private renters in the UK are behind on their rent. The average amount owed is more than £700, with an estimated £360 million owed across the UK
More than half (58 per cent) of those behind on rent had no rent arrears in February 2020.
For people already struggling with rent before the pandemic, 40 per cent reported their arrears have got worse.
In another report Getting the House in Order, research showed tenants who do complain about disrepair or maintenance issues have a 46 per cent chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice within six months of doing so.
* Read One Renter Every Minute here.
* Source: Citizens Advice