PRIVATE RENTERS who complained to their landlord, letting agent or local council in the last three years were two and a half times (159 per cent) more likely to be handed an eviction notice than those who had not complained, new research from Shelter reveals.

Due to the lack of regulation in private renting, millions of tenants are trapped in a ‘catch-22’ situation whereby they either put up with poor conditions, or risk being evicted for complaining. A quarter of private renters (25 per cent) – just over 2 million people – have not asked their landlord for repairs to be carried out or conditions improved for fear of being evicted.

The research, compiled by YouGov, lays bare the extent of disrepair people are being forced to put up with. In the last year:

  • Three in four (76 per cent) of private renters in England – equivalent to more than 6.2 million people – have experienced disrepair in their home.

  • Over half of tenants (51 per cent) had issues with damp and mould; 31 per cent had issues with lack of hot water or heating and 18 per cent had electrical hazards or issues with essential safety equipment in their homes, such as smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

The alarming findings mirror what the housing charity is seeing through its own services. Since the beginning of the year, Shelter’s online advice pages on disrepair have been accessed every 18 seconds. This is a 53 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

Shelter warns that the government’s unfulfilled promises to reform private renting are leaving millions of people trapped in dire conditions and powerless to do anything about it without risking eviction. It is calling on the government to urgently introduce the Renters’ Reform Bill to put an end to unfair evictions, drive up standards, and hold landlords to account for poor behaviour.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “By dragging its heels on the Renters’ Reform Bill, the government has left private renters in a terrible catch 22 – they either shut up and put up with disrepair, or risk more than doubling their chances of eviction in a cost of living crisis.

“Day in day out Shelter hears from people who are forking out huge sums on rent while living in nightmarish conditions because private renting is woefully under-regulated. It is a travesty that so many private renters are too afraid to complain about the mould growing all over their kids’ clothes, or the water pouring in through broken window frames, in case it costs them their home.

“Renters are bearing the brunt of government dithering over urgently needed private rental reforms. Renters can’t wait any longer, the government must urgently make its Renters’ Reform Bill law to protect tenants who call out poor conditions from unfair evictions and homelessness.“

Up until recently 33-year-old Chiara who works as a teacher, her husband Ben and their three-year-old daughter Maggie called their privately rented two-bed in Leyton, East London, home. The flat had severe damp and mould, but when Chiara wrote a letter requesting repairs from the landlord, they were served with section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice.

Chiara says: “Last Christmas Eve we received a 25 per cent increase in rent, despite us living with long-term damp and mould. I complained, and in the New Year the landlord responded with a section 21 eviction notice, saying they didn’t accept any responsibility for the disrepair or damage.

“Even before the section 21, we’d spend a lot of time at the library, church, or cafes, just so we didn’t have to worry about Maggie being in the damp and cold. I was up all night looking online for properties, but it’s really hard out there. Rents have massively gone up. People are so desperate they’ll consider taking a flat that’s mouldy or in disrepair just because there’s nothing else.

“There really needs to be a way of holding landlords accountable, or for there to be some sort of record so you can look and see if someone is a good landlord. The thought of this happening to us in our next place always looms over me. I pretend everything is OK in front of Maggie, but the worry of becoming homeless is making me feel ill.”

At the last State Opening of Parliament, on 10 May 2022, the government committed to bring forward a Renters’ Reform Bill within this parliamentary session (2022-23). The bill, if enacted, “will abolish so-called ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions and strengthen landlords’ rights of possession, providing a fair and effective market for both tenants and landlords.

Figures about private renters’ experiences of disrepair are from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 2,006 private renting adults (aged 16+). The survey was carried out online between 24 February and 14 March 2023 and results were weighted to be representative of private renters. The number of private renters has been calculated by Shelter using data from the English Housing Survey.

* Access Shelter’s advice on repairs here.

* Source: Shelter