1 in 3 Young People Victims of Illegal Behaviour by Landlords During Pandemic

Exclusive: 16-24-year-olds in England are nearly twice as likely to have experienced an illegal act from their landlord or letting agent since March 2020.
September 15, 2021, 3:39pm
A woman stands in a doorway. Photo: Westend61
A woman stands in a doorway. Photo: Westend61

Young people in England are twice as likely to be victims of an illegal act by their landlord during the pandemic – including unfair treatment because of their race, gender, disability or sexual orientation– VICE World News can reveal. 

Since March 2020, 33 percent of 16-24-year-olds have experienced an illegal act by their landlord or letting agent compared to 17 percent of all adults, making young people nearly twice as likely to be victims, according to a study by housing charity Shelter shared with VICE World News. 

Sixteen to twenty-four-year-olds are also twice as likely to receive unfair treatment from a landlord or letting agent due to their race, age, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or disability, according to Shelter. Seven percent of young people have received this treatment, compared to 3 percent of adults. 

The statistics come as part of an in-depth YouGov study of 3,500 English private renters looking at illegal behaviour by landlords, which reveals that nearly half (45 percent) of England’s private renting adults – equivalent to 3.7 million people – have been the victim of illegal behaviour by a landlord or letting agent.

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Nearly one in ten (9 percent) of private renters said they had been assaulted, threatened or harassed by their landlord or letting agent.

Fifteen percent of tenants had experienced their landlord entering their homes without permission. The same proportion found essential safety or household appliances such as smoke alarms, central heating and water supplies not working when moving into a property.

In December 2019, the UK government pledged to introduce a Renters Reform Bill, which would include a National Landlord Register so tenants can find details of their landlord if they need to take action against them, alongside a ban on Section 21 evictions which allow landlords to evict tenants without reason. The bill was delayed for an indefinite period due to the coronavirus pandemic and is yet to be presented in Parliament.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Home is everything. Yet millions of private renters across the country don’t feel safe or secure in theirs because of landlords and agents who flout the law. People should not have to put up with broken safety alarms, strangers bursting into their homes unannounced or the threat of harassment and violence. 

“Enough is enough,” she said. “Nobody is above the law and renters are tired of being powerless to enforce their rights. The government has promised voters a fairer private renting system that punishes illegal behaviour by landlords and letting agents. To deliver on this promise, its Renters’ Reform Bill must include a National Landlord Register that makes landlords fully accountable and helps drive up standards across private renting.”

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of tenant lobbying group Generation Rent, said: “We spend half our lives in our homes and many of us spend half our wages on them – so we should expect good treatment from our landlords. It’s frightening to know that anyone with a spare property can just start letting it out without passing basic checks to make sure they’re a suitable person to be providing someone’s home. Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already set up landlord registration schemes, so it’s much easier to find out if your landlord meets minimum standards and take action if they break the law. It’s time the government in Westminster did the same in England.”