Currently 3.6million people privately rent their property, this accounts for 17% of all housing. This figure has increased rapidly from just 9% in 1991, and estimates suggest that it will continue to rise to 20% by 2015. In other words, one in every five houses will be 'to let' by the next General Election.
Many people are disappointed by the current housing situation, for those who rent it can feel like renting is for the long term and that it is no longer an early-to-mid twenties phase, especially since first-time buyers face an average deposit of roughly £26,500. This is all only made worse by the fact that renting is now actually more expensive than paying a mortgage in all but five UK cities, so actually saving for a deposit is increasingly difficult as well. This isn't to say to that having a private rental sector is bad, nor is it unjust to be a landlord. There is, however, undeniably an issue in that so many have a lack of opportunity of getting on to the housing ladder.
Another reason the growth of the private rental sector is particularly concerning is the quality of housing. Some 40% of all private rented property does not meet basic standards. Alongside the growth of this industry, a new social problem has emerged - many vulnerable, often young, people rent a property and discover it is riddled with flaws such as mould, broken furniture or lack of heat and/or energy efficiency. The demand for property is so high that they can, at times, be taken off the market within 24 hours. This means that landlords don't need to properly maintain the property because when the tenants leave at the end of the tenancy, they can readily replace them, regardless of the property's faults. There is, therefore, not always the incentive to improve it.
Letting agents often seize the opportunity to cash in on this, as tenants leave at the first opportunity, which results in an annual turnover of new tenancy contract fees - something that costs individual tenants roughly £258 every year. The system as we have it, therefore, ensures that the most inexperienced and vulnerable are often subjected to the worst treatment of all.
Furthermore, evidence given to the Communities and Local Government Committee suggested that 50% of landlords could be considered 'rogue', especially by moral standards of how tenants should be treated. This is because some landlords understand that it pays to be willfully ignorant of the plight of the tenants, no doubt in part because only 0.1% of landlords are ever prosecuted as criminally rogue. The inconvenient truth is, however, that these landlords aren't shady backstreet characters. They're just ordinary people who saw a viable way to make money, as 78% of all landlords are 'amateur' and only rent out one dwelling.
Some may argue that renting used to the norm and therefore the UK is just returning to what was. To my logic, however, all that means is that social barriers that were once down, have resurrected and now stand firm and tall. The previous existence of a social condition cannot, and should not, ever be used to justify its unwarranted return. Without the ability to invest in bricks and mortar, we lose security. We read of the elderly having to sell their homes to pay for care, but what is my generation supposed to do when we have no houses to sell? How can it be that the future for the youth is one where, with hard work, you can become an architect, a lawyer or a doctor - but can't own your own house?
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