Cllr Anna Birley, Policy Lead for the Private Rented Sector, blogs about her experience as a private renter and why Lambeth Labour are calling on the government to scrap no-fault evictions…
I have a personal stake in the current debate on private renting. Like many of my Labour colleagues, I am a private renter. I’ve faced my fair share of mouldy bathrooms, broken appliances and unanswered complaints.
Some of the landlords I’ve rented from over the last decade have been lovely, but have struggled with managing a property they thought was going to be a straightforward boost to their pension. They wanted to be good landlords but lacked the knowledge and support to do right by me and my housemates.
Others simply didn’t care, and left repairs half finished – or worse actively sought to make life difficult by withholding our deposit, or leaving us without hot water or secure locks.
Labour’s motion, voted on at Wednesday’s council meeting, called for a better deal for renters. In particular it highlighted the stress, uncertainty and power imbalance that comes from Section 21. This law gives landlords the right to evict tenants for no reason. The threat of eviction discourages tenants from complaining or asking for repairs to be made.
I was served a Section 21 recently – alongside a notice of rent increases. The implied choice was clear: I could choose between paying an above inflation rent rise, or leaving my home altogether. I’m lucky – I know my rights as a tenant and felt confident enough to challenge this behaviour. While my rent still went up, my landlord at least apologised for the way they treated me and has since changed their policy so that their other tenants don’t face the same treatment.
Lambeth Labour’s work to consult private renters, landlords and housing organisations, and to develop a charter setting out renters’ rights, responsibilities and support from the council should help others in my situation or worse feel empowered to raise issues with their landlord and access the support they need from the council.
However this alone isn’t enough, so we’re proudly supporting the campaign to end Section 21. We are writing to the Secretary of State for Housing, asking for no fault evictions to be abolished and to extend secure fixed term tenancies. We will continue to work with private renter groups locally and across London to campaign for higher standards and more rights for private renters.