Every day, Generation Rent hears from private renters in severe difficulty because of an eviction, sometimes illegal, or suffering because of the poor quality of their home.
They are unaware of their rights and the responsibilities of their landlord, and they don’t know where to go for help.
Unlike with social tenants, it’s not obvious that the council can support private tenants.
Alongside this, we speak to local authorities who take their statutory duties to protect private renters seriously. They want to support the private renters in their local area, be proactive, and not just react to problems when it’s too late.
The problem is, they don’t know how best to engage with private renters.
Many local authorities have landlord forums, but very few authorities have formal mechanisms to engage and consult with private renters.
With so many powers and responsibilities being passed to councils to deal with private landlords, you can see how speaking with the ever growing, disparate population of private renters is a challenge.
Generation Rent wanted to make this challenge easier for local authorities.
We wanted to end that disconnect and find out ways in which local authorities could better engage with their population of private renters, leading to informed policy making, and an increased ability to plan and take proactive action – all of which saves time and money.
In turn, private renters would learn how the council could support them, where to go for help and, in the process, become more aware of their rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
With funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, we were able to launch a project to explore these issues and to answer two key questions: how can local authorities better communicate with private renters about their rights and responsibilities, and what are the best ways for local authorities to engage and communicate with private renters?
For a year, we worked with Dundee City Council, East Suffolk Council, Gedling Borough Council, the London Borough of Newham, and Newport City Council to answer these questions.
We worked with each authority and their housing teams to consult with private renters.
“Too many renters were unaware of their rights and how the local authority can help”
Using qualitative and quantitative methods, we researched how private renters currently engage with their local authority, where they go for help if they have an issue with their home, and how they would like their local authority to communicate with them.
Shockingly, too many renters were unaware of their rights and how the local authority can help.
A staggering 80 per cent had never contacted their council with a renting issue and 75 per cent had never visited its website for renting information. Yet four out of five renters want more guidance from their local authority about their rights. This is the disconnect – the missed opportunity by local authorities to better support a growing community of private renters.
In response, Generation Rent has developed a Private Tenant Engagement Charter, a mix of communication methods that will help local authorities be more accessible to local private renters.
Generation Rent wants to help local authorities develop their own charters so that they meet the needs of their local private renters.
Help give private renters a stronger voice within your local authority by being more accessible, in tune and in touch with the renters you have a statutory duty to support.