According to Shelter, four in ten British homes aren’t up to standard and with the cold, wet winter imminent, there is desperate need for the standard of homes to significantly improve.
In among violent illegal allegations, sexual harassments, and dangerous hazards, there’s the tenant who rented a home without knowing it was a brothel. 4 women – a mother and her daughters- were unaware of the history of their house until they noticed men continuously knocking on their front door each night. The landlord only reported that he would change the locks, but never apologised for his misinformation, even when one stranger tried to break in.
Unfortunately stories like this are far too common. According to Shelter, there are 24 complaints a day about rogue landlords. A story of a Scottish woman who had to evacuate her home with her 10-year old daughter after severe damp and boiler issues is another example of this. She claims that it had been ‘one thing after another. There is damp next to my daughter's bed and the boiler kept packing up. That got changed after being shut down 28 times in as many days."
Thanks to Shelter’s excellent report ‘Living Home Standard’, we know that nearly half of rented properties are substandard; they are infested with vermin, leaking, insecure in tenure, damp or cold. And tenants feel unable to complain since they can be issued with notice to leave on a whim. Most renters have extreme tales, but it’s the everyday misery of no security and the possibility of no-fault evictions that cause major woe.
What can be done? Well, ideally, fresh laws can be introduced, similar to those recently introduced in Scotland banning no-fault evictions, preventing landlords from exacting revenge by turfing tenants out whenever they see fit. We also need new strictly enforced legislation, so that errant rentiers forfeit the property and must pay damages when properties fall into such disrepair.
It’s also about education. Smaller non-institutional landlords should receive training about their responsibilities, such as the notion that proper maintenance cares for their investment, meaning tenants stay longer, thereby avoiding agency fees for finding new occupants when residents give up and leave. This would prevent anyone from imagining that letting property involves sitting back and raking-in enormous stacks of easy money while doing absolutely nothing.
I hope that the in a couple of years, we won't be hearing about these horror stories. People need safe, warm, secure, long-term housing, not freezing rat-infested hovels. The new Shelter living home standard doesn’t demand gold-plated taps flowing with free champagne, simply the right to a safe, affordable property we can treat as a home. When you remember that homes can also be lethal, it should be obvious what needs to be done.