Private sector housing misery worsens

Submitted by AWL on 22 September, 2015 - 6:11 Author: Pete Gilman

Lisa was forced to live in one room, for which she paid £200 a week, and shared a bathroom and toilet with six other tenants.

The roof leaked and when it rained water came through the electrics. She had no choice, lack of social housing and the growing refusal of private landlords to accept tenants on housing benefit meant it was that or the street.

There are vast numbers in Lisa's situation. No one knows how many.

According to a recent study conducted by the Centre for Housing and Planning Research at Cambridge University 83,000 16-25 year olds have been forced to “sleep rough” over the last year, while a Ministry of Justice report states more than 43,000 families were evicted in the twelve months to June this year, the highest number of evictions ever recorded.

Vast numbers of tenants in the private rented sector have suffered abuse and harassment at the hands of private landlords including threats, physical assault, the cutting off of gas, water or electricity, and the destruction of their possessions. The Guardian (2 September) reported the results of a survey estimating that 125,000 tenants in the private sector had suffered some form of abuse.

It is normal for private tenancies to be short term, sometimes no more than six months, which leads to stress, lack of stability and regular moves. For families this means the continuous disruption of children's education. There are now a rapidly growing (and unknown) number of children who have never completed a full year in any one school.

Tenants in the private sector pay extortionate rents, especially in London, have little or no security of tenure, and the property is often in an appalling state of disrepair.

It is the Tories intention to force more and more people into the private rented sector, irrespective of the suffering and misery this causes. They want a bonanza for the private landlord.

Tory housing policies have led to the worst housing crisis since the war. There is a massive housing shortage, especially social housing. Less than 50% of what is needed is being built and over 80% of what is actually built is “luxury housing.”

To solve the crisis requires a complete reversal of Tory housing policy and the complete regulation of the private rented sector.

A regulatory body needs to be created with real teeth and legal powers of enforcement to oversee the entire private housing sector, and especially to deal with “slum landlords”.

We need a charter of rights for private sector tenants along the lines of “The Regulation of the Private Rented Sector Bill” sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn, which includes replacing short term tenancies with long term tenancies, especially for families with children.

The Bill also requires all private sector landlords to go onto a central registry. This involves them signing up to a specific code of conduct towards their tenants. Failure to register, or failure to comply with that code of conduct, should lead to a compulsory purchase orders on properties, heavy fines, or in extreme cases confiscation or even imprisonment.

Some landlord companies (and the finance companies behind them) have indicated that they will resist such regulation.

If they are not allowed to increase rents to whatever levels they see fit, or are made to grant security of tenure to tenants, they say will withdraw their property from the market and deliberately increase homelessness. The landlord equivalent of a strike, but a “strike of capital”.

When landlords refuse to comply with regulation or organise their “strike of capital” they must be given a clear choice — comply or be taken into public ownership.

Only with these measures can we deal with the horrors and the scandals of the private rented sector.

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