To Put Up and Shut Up?

About Doug

Doug is an adviser on the Shelter helpline

Speaking to private renters on our helpline there seem to be two issues that come up time and time again; bad conditions and the threat of eviction. All too often though, complaining about one means risking the other. So is it better to just put up with it all and keep quiet?

No one should have to live in the sort of conditions some of our callers tell us about: collapsing ceilings, dangerous electrics, leaks, and severe damp and mould to name a few. As an advisor, though I have to be realistic in the advice I give, and that means making people aware of the risk of retaliatory eviction.

A house that is in need of repair. The window is broken, there is a hole in the ceiling and the wall is mouldy

Broken windows, leaking ceilings and mould are just a few common examples of disrepair

Cause and effect?

When I spoke to Chris, he and his family had been renting from a private landlord for just over two years. There were various repairs that were the landlord’s responsibility, including some leaking guttering that was causing a damp problem in the kitchen. They had raised this with their landlord several times with no success and had even gone so far now as to involve the environmental health department of the local council. They were good tenants, making a reasonable request for repairs to be done and were taking sensible, measured steps to try and get it sorted out.

The landlord’s response? To give Chris and his family their notice.

Now of course, not all landlords would react in the same way.  There are also many legitimate reasons why a landlord might need to end a tenancy. The problem is that the way the law stands at the moment, there’s no protection at all for renters who report poor conditions to their landlord or local authority from being evicted. Until this is changed, the possibility of retaliatory eviction is always going to be there.

An impossible choice

Jasmine’s story was different. She had been renting her property for a long time now and she wanted to know what notice was required to move out. In the course of the conversation though, she told me of a whole host of problems she had been experiencing: faulty wiring, leaking pipes and a mould problem that she believed had given her children a rash.

I asked Jasmine if she had reported these problems to her landlord. She sighed and there was a long pause before going on.

She said she was afraid to.

It turned out before finding this place, Jasmine and her family had moved four times in as many years. Concerned about the effect this disruption was having on the children, she was desperate for a stable home for the family. Weighing this up against the risks of being evicted for complaining about the repairs, Jasmine decided to keep quiet.

Here at Shelter we think no one should have to make that choice. However, unless there are real changes to protect renters from unfair eviction, the chances are these sort of stories will become more and more common.

Right now we’re campaigning to protect renters facing these difficult choices. At Shelter we believe no one should be evicted for complaining about bad conditions – sign the 9 million renters petition here.

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Doug is an adviser on the Shelter helpline