NEW research released today has revealed that in the last year alone over a million – or one in eight – private renters across England suffered at the hands of a landlord who has broken the law.
Alarmingly, the survey of over 3,250 renters by Shelter and YouGov uncovered a range of problems with law-breaking landlords committing offences ranging from unlawful behaviour to serious criminal offences.
While reports of landlords entering homes without permission and deposits not being properly protected were among the most common issues, many cases of more shocking behaviour from rogue landlords were also uncovered in the survey.
The most striking findings included:
• The equivalent of over 64,000 renters reported that a landlord has cut off their utilities without their consent and almost 50,000 said their belongings had been thrown out of their home and the locks changed
• Over 600,000 renters have had their home entered by a landlord without permission or notice being given
• Over 200,000 reported having been abused, threatened or harassed by a landlord
• Over 110,000 renters felt they had been treated unfairly due to their race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.
The housing charity is warning that a minority of rogue landlords are causing misery to the lives of renters by committing these civil and criminal offences. Often renters don’t know what their rights are. In just the last year, Shelter’s website has received over 220,000 unique visits to its advice pages for people facing problems with a private landlord.
Shelter’s helpline adviser, Danielle Goodwin, said: ‘Every day at Shelter we speak to people at the end of their tether after a law-breaking landlord has caused chaos in their lives.
‘These range from instances where the renter has been unaware of their rights, to cases where renters are exploited and subjected to terrible experiences by a minority of law breaking landlords.
‘Too many people simply don’t know their rights as a renter – but Shelter is here to help anyone having landlord problems with free, expert advice. As a first port of call go to shelter.org.uk/advice or for urgent problems call our helpline on 0808 800 4444.’
In one Case Study: Jayne, 35, has had to move after going through two experiences with rogue landlords that were among the most shocking that Shelter has encountered, and involved the police on both occasions.
Jayne says: ‘The problem is when you move in, you have absolutely no idea who you’re dealing with. I took one room because, even though the property was in a bad way, it was all I could afford. I paid the deposit and a month’s rent upfront, but as soon as I moved in the landlord raised the rent by 50%. When I said I couldn’t pay he came back to the house with a replica gun to threaten me – it was terrifying.
‘Another couple I rented a room from would enter my room without permission. They’d eat my food out of the fridge and the landlady even stalked me after I left. Thankfully the police charged her with harassment.’