The last few years have seen a massive growth in the number of private tenants because of the increasing impossibility of getting onto the much fetishised housing ladder that a few years ago the politicians were still so obsessed with going on about.
When Thatcher was in power she stated that she wanted to create a “property-owning democracy” and she did so by introducing measures such as the “right to buy” which helped to create a complete collapse in social housing provision and the residualisation and stigmatisation of what was left. Social housing was increasingly seen as something for poor people (who were being supported by “hard working taxpayers”) and a handout rather than something which was considered to be theirs by right after the war for example.
With the property crash in the 1990s and the consistent rise in house prices that continued throughout the 90s and 2000s a lot of people who could afford it felt they could not only get onto the housing ladder but also become landlords. Thus you had an increase in “buy to let mortgages” something that the government is trying to stimulate again – there was even talk of making it “ten for the price of one”. Growing numbers of people realised that there was money to be made in the industry – they may not have realised it at the time but it was at the expense of others and ultimately at their own expense.
in the UK the private renting sector has very little regulation surrounding it and landlords frequently get away with horrendous abuses of power. And they are not the only ones – many people have horror stories of being charged by letting agencies despite the agency not having done anything except print out some forms. A mate of mine was telling me tonight how he was charged £125 by a letting agency and they hadn’t done anything – it was forms he could have printed himself. You are allowed to kick people out giving only a weeks’ notice. And with a huge shortage of places to live many people will accept overcrowded and substandard accommodation because they simply have no other choice.
The “Landlord Referencing Service” made me so fucking angry I had to say something. I have been screwed around by many landlords trying to find a place. The most recent one was yesterday when I turned up at a house and waited for half an hour and rang repeatedly, only to get a call telling me the room had gone because “I hadn’t said I definitely wanted it”. I hadn’t even fucking seen it. That night I didn’t get home until gone 9. Another landlord I lived with charged me £40 a week. Well great, until you find out that he actually keeps all his stuff in your room as a storeroom and refuses to move it, and then kicks you out with a week’s notice via a note on a shelf outside your room which you could easily have missed which was written on a piece of scrap paper.
I could go on and with all that in mind there is a proposal to start a “referencing service” designed for tenants, to be warned about shoddy landlords. I think something more permanent is needed. The fact there are so many short-term and Monday to Friday lets does not bode well in terms of the local community. If people are going to move on after a couple of months then many will just think what is the point. But when I do finally move out I will try and do something about starting some sort of tenant’s association or group although that will be difficult given I don’t know how long I’ll stay there. We really need something like this.