Campaign for Safer Renting
A mission to strengthen rights and access to justice for people exploited by rogue landlords, making private renting safe for all.
‘Journeys in the Shadow Private Rented Sector’ revealed the systematic financial exploitation, illegal eviction and violence faced by private sector tenants.
In the complex landscape of the Private Rented Sector (PRS), reforms have fallen short in addressing the pervasive issue of criminal landlords.
At Safer Renting, our mission is clear: to strengthen rights and ensure access to justice for individuals exploited by rogue landlords.
We are determined to make the PRS a safe environment for all.
Illegal evictions devastate people’s lives, families and communities.
The government’s efforts to address the problem of criminal landlords through PRS reforms over the last decade have failed, leaving tenants vulnerable to exploitation.
Criminal Landlords exploit the system and evade prosecution
The introduction of rent repayment orders (RROs) via the Housing and Planning Act 2016 was a step in the right direction, empowering tenants to seek compensation where landlords have committed an offence like illegal eviction. Unfortunately, government inaction has enabled criminal landlords to develop scams that allow them to evade legislation and dissolve their companies with ease when action is taken against them. Rent-to-rent scams are rampant in the PRS, exploiting legal loopholes that render these unscrupulous companies almost immune from legal enforcement; only 6% of court-ordered awards are successfully enforced against these entities.
Illegal Evictions on the Rise
In April 2018, local authorities were granted the power to issue banning orders against criminal landlords and agents involved in the most serious offenses, such as illegal evictions. Despite this authority, a mere 39 landlords were subjected to banning orders in the three years following their introduction. This troubling statistic is particularly alarming when viewed alongside Safer Renting’s recent report on illegal evictions. In 2020 alone, there were 6930 reported cases of illegal eviction nationwide, but only 12 landlords faced prosecution. The number of illegal evictions rose to 7778 in 2021, painting a stark picture of the challenges faced in prosecuting these offenses.
Inadequate Sentencing Guidelines
The current PRS landscape is marred by inadequate sentencing guidelines and a lack of access to justice for tenants. Instances where courts fail to impose penalties commensurate with the severity of offenses underscore the urgent need for sentencing reform: one landlord was fined a mere £105 for illegally evicting his tenants and throwing away their possessions; another, who carried out an illegal eviction that causes his tenant to be hospitalised with hypothermia as a result of having to sleep outside, was given a conditional discharge.
6,930 illegal evictions, only 12 landlords prosecuted..
Between 2009 and 2018, drastic cuts exceeding 50% were made to housing and planning expenditure, resulting in a significant reduction in staff responsible for enforcing the law and safeguarding tenants’ rights. Currently, only a handful of councils employ trained tenancy relations staff. The evidential burden for prosecution is excessively high, placing an insurmountable challenge on council officers. They invest considerable hours in investigating cases of illegal eviction, only to face the disheartening outcome of having their efforts turned down by the council’s legal team.
Lack of Access to Justice as Legal Aid Funding Slashed
A further blow to tenants is the slashed funding for legal aid, resulting in a lack of access to justice for those unable to afford the costly legal process. The severe reduction in legal aid availability leaves a substantial portion of the population without the means to obtain qualified legal representation, exacerbating the challenges faced by tenants. A recent report shows that 40% of the UK population lives in a borough where there are no Legal Aid housing solicitors.
Illegal Evictions Perpetuated by Institutional Lack of Knowledge in the Police
This lack of resources has been compounded by an institutional lack of knowledge regarding tenancy rights within the police, the sole institution equipped with the power to prevent illegal eviction. This knowledge gap has led to a failure in upholding the law and preventing illegal evictions. Instead of fulfilling their duty, the police inadvertently assist in perpetuating criminal actions.
Safer Renting is at the forefront of advocating for essential reforms in the PRS. Our demands, based on our frontline experience and extensive research and campaigns, address critical issues, urging the relevant bodies to take immediate action for the well-being of tenants.
The following demands encapsulate Safer Renting’s commitment to driving meaningful change and justice within the PRS.
The Government should
Place a Duty on the Police
The Government should go beyond granting power and place a legal duty on the police to enforce the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Provide Local Authorities with Funding
Establish a dedicated fund to enable local authorities to recruit expertise and enhance capacity, facilitating the pursuit of a civil penalties regime under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Regulate Online Platforms
Impose a legal requirement on online platforms hosting private rental adverts. These platforms should provide clear advice on how private tenants can protect themselves from landlords’ criminal behaviour and actively police criminal activity by disabling offending accounts.
Facilitate Multi-Agency Strategic Housing Plans
Introduce a duty on local authorities to develop comprehensive local multi-agency strategic housing plans. These plans should cover various aspects, including housing options, homelessness, and the regulation of the PRS. Joint working provisions should involve collaboration across areas such as planning, trading standards, and policing to detect and prosecute landlords’ and agents’ criminal behaviour.
Introduce Joint/Several Liability
Amend all housing legislation to introduce joint and several liability for housing offenses, extending responsibility to include the property owner.
End Section 21 and Introduce Longer Fixed Term Tenancies
Remove Section 21 and replace Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) with statutory longer fixed-term tenancies. This should be coupled with a duty for landlords to provide written tenancy agreements that comply with statutory requirements.
Establish a Right to Expert Statutory Advocacy
Introduce a legal right for private renters facing any criminal behavior by landlords to receive expert statutory advocacy.
Local Authorities should
Detect Unlicensed HMOs
Local authorities should adopt targeted means to detect unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). This involves expanding data-sharing initiatives and monitoring all online platforms advertising private rentals.
Enforce Protection from Eviction Act 1977
Work collaboratively with the police to actively enforce the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Pursue prosecutions of offenders in cases of illegal evictions.
The Crown Prosecution (CPS) Service should
Institute Centralised Collection and Reporting
The CPS should institute centralised collection and reporting mechanisms specifically focused on illegal evictions.
The Metropolitan Police should
Better Use Their Powers
The Metropolitan Police should work with councils to make more active use of their powers to enforce the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Review Eviction Training
Conduct a comprehensive review of training around evictions to ensure alignment with legal standards and best practices.
It’s not just changing a lock – it’s stealing your home and your sense of safety.
Study our impactful campaigns to uncover our findings about the grim realities of the PRS:
Roz Spencer and Julie Rugg
Offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 in England: 2022 update of the annual count
Click here to read the full report
Roz Spencer, Ben Reeve-Lewis, Julie Rugg and Eusebio Barata
A Cambridge House Research Publication
Click here to read the full 2020 report ‘Journeys in the Shadow PRS
Safer Renting Guides
For advice and support on private renting take a look at our guides and checklists covering a wide range of topics including illegal evictions, harassment, deposit protection and homelessness applications. Plus our Safer Renting At a Glance Checklist and How to Rent Guide.
Support Safer Renting
Safer Renting is committed to making the PRS safe for all. We believe in collective action and campaigning to bring about real reform in the private rented sector. Your support is crucial in creating awareness and advocating for change.