A new report from Shelter, Growing up renting, is highly critical of the private rented sector, claiming that instability, which they believe to be inherent in long-term private tenancy, negatively impacts on the education and well-being of children.
Shelter’s research was based around a YouGov survey carried out in November 2012 of 4,327 adults living in private rented accommodation in England. It found that 44% of respondents felt that their child would have a better childhood if they had a more stable home.
One in ten renting families were found to have had to change their children’s school due to moving. Of those that had moved in the last five years, one in eight said that the move was upsetting for their child, while one in three said that it strained their finances.
Shelter would like to see five-year tenancy contracts to ensure a more stable home for growing children. Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb said, “These stark findings prove that today’s volatile rental market is simply not fit for purpose.
“For the vast majority of renting parents, renting isn’t a lifestyle choice, yet for many it’s putting their children’s education, happiness and well-being in jeopardy. Unpredictable rents and short-term tenancies are not only failing to meet the needs of families, they’re doing real damage to children’s lives.
“No child should have to deal with constant upheaval, a disrupted education and an atmosphere where parents are constantly worried about paying the rent or having to find somewhere new to live.
“Making tenancy contracts more stable could improve the lives of children across the country by giving families more stability in their homes, and would give landlords a more predictable income.
“The nine million renters in this country deserve better. It’s high time we faced up to the fact that renting is no longer a stepping stone, but the only long-term option available to rising numbers of families. We have to give children growing up in rented homes a better deal.”
However, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) does not accept Shelter’s conclusions. Policy director Richard Jones said, “The RLA condemns the scaremongering that Shelter is engaged in. Whilst we agree that a small minority of landlords ruin the lives of tenants and should be banned from renting property, the reality is that the majority of landlords in the country provide a good service.
“At a time when increasing numbers of people are depending on the private rented sector for their housing, Shelter should act more responsibly and not promote inaccurate generalisations which only serve to frighten families into thinking that a majority of landlords can’t wait to throw them out, which is nonsense.
“The reality is that landlords will do all they can to keep tenants in their properties rather than face an empty property.”
He added, “Shelter are playing a dangerous game by frightening off investors from increasing the supply of much-needed private rented housing.”
The RLA denies that landlords are to blame for short tenancies, saying that agreements are normally ended by tenants, with just 9% ended by landlords. In the event that it is the landlord who ends the tenancy, it is usually due to rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. They said, ‘Contrary to popular myth, most landlords would prefer to keep tenants rather than being left with an empty property.’
They also highlighted the fact that the government figures in the English Housing Survey showed that the mean social rent increased more than private rents between 2008/9 and 2011/12.
In the social rented sector, mean weekly rents went up from £71 to £83 from 2008/09 to 2011/ 12 – an increase of 16.9 per cent. But in the private rented sector, rents went up from £153 to £164 – an increase of 7.18 per cent.
Shelter’s continued effort to burn every bridge with the private rented sector can only undermine their own raison d’être. Letting agents and landlords have supported Shelter via donations, but will be less inclined to do so when constantly being painted as the enemies of tenants.
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