melle Young*, 29, who works in arts finance, lives in an illegal sublet in London to make her rent more affordable. She is one of five people living in a three-bedroom property. There is mold and damp in all the rooms and the window panes are rotting. In the kitchen, the rot has caused the glass to fall, so the cold air sneaks in.
Young is not named in the contract, so he cannot contact the owner. When his landlord’s roommate on the lease contacted them, they were told that he “didn’t have funds available to make repairs this year.” Young is terrified that if they keep asking for repairs, they will be issued a section 21 notice, which allows private landlords to evict tenants in England and Wales without having to prove fault. He fears that if she is forced to move he will have nowhere to live because of skyrocketing rental costs.
“I have seen rooms in share houses that are priced between £850 and £1,200 where I live. I can’t afford that,” she says. “We are not allowed to be here and I am not protected either, but I have no choice.”
In 2018, he became homeless after repeatedly asking the landlord of a previous rental to fix a broken window. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re in a lease or not because of section 21, your landlord can just kick you out.”
If you lose your home, you will face increasing rental demand and will probably have no choice but to live in another insecure property unless you can come up with another £400 a month. In the context of a cost-of-living crisis, with rising food prices and energy bills, this seems impossible, she says.
Like Young, thousands of renters live in a climate of uncertainty, finding themselves in precarious housing situations because they have no other alternative. Private tenants spend more than 30% of their income on rent. And more than 1.6 million people live in dangerously low-quality housing, plagued by cold, damp and mold, and without working bathrooms or kitchens, according to an analysis by the Leveling Department. Accommodation and Communities. In an overheated market, renters have no choice but to take what they can get.
Anny Cullum, policy officer for the Acorn Community Union, which deals with housing, says private tenants are being forced to live in unsafe housing due to a lack of regulations to protect tenants’ rights, while prices rise. “way out of his league.” “Landlords and realtors are raising prices because they know people are running out of options. Housing is such a fundamental need that people will pay for it, even if it means detriment to other areas of their lives,” she says.
UK private rental prices rose 3.6% in the 12 months to September 2022, the biggest rise since they were first recorded in 2016, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In 2019, the Conservative party committed to a tenant reform bill that would eliminate evictions under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, which meant that landlords only had to give tenants two notices. months in advance to leave your home. The denial of the right to safe, livable housing comes at a cost, and many renters say they are struggling to get by because they fear losing their homes amid rising costs of living.
Last month, the scottish government announced a rent freeze and an eviction ban until April 2023 to help people get through the crisis. Cullum called on the Westminster government to take similar action in the rest of the UK: “The government has shown that it can take emergency action during the pandemic. The cost of living crisis is also a massive threat to people’s well-being, so they should take emergency action now to freeze people’s rent.”
Georgina Clemens, 48, received a section 21 notice and was given two months to move out of the London flat where she had lived with her daughter for five years because the landlord was selling the property. She’s been looking for a new flat for months and, as rent prices have skyrocketed, she now pays an extra £250 a month, two-thirds of her take-home pay.
“The increase in the cost of food combined with the increase in my rent is really putting pressure on me. It feels like money is slipping through my fingers,” she says. “I am struggling at work. I struggle to focus on conversations with people because they are there, humming in the back of my mind constantly. I just don’t know how I can continue. It’s like every minute of the day, I’m thinking about money. It’s relentless.”
Felicia Odamtten of the Resolution Foundation think tank, who co-authored the Housing Outlook Report Q3 2022he says tenant reform bill It will help address many of the insecure leases that people have to accept. “If section 21 is repealed, it will help give people a sense of stability because there are families that live in the private rented sector and it is really difficult if you are trying to move in with your family two or three months in advance if your lease is up. end up”.
But for Young, unless there are rent controls to help with the cost, she will continue to be forced to live in insecure rentals. “I never thought she would make it to 30 and she would still be in a share house… I don’t see how she could be a homeowner because of the way mortgages are set up now,” she says.
“When I was homeless, I had to sleep in not-so-good situations, like on people’s floors. I live in fear of going through that again. I’m not in contact with my family, so I couldn’t move house. This is my home.”
This article was amended on 19th October 2022 to add details on the Scottish Government’s rent freeze and eviction ban.
* Names of all tenants have been changed to protect their identity