The private rental sector is not fit for purpose when it comes to housing vulnerable tenants, claims debt charity StepChange which has called for a government review.
Four fifths of the charity’s clients rent, and around half of those are private sector tenants. Many of those clients have an additional vulnerability such as a physical or mental health problem, a disability or communication issues.
The charity’s survey, based on 816 responses from a randomly selected group of StepChange clients, found:
- Half of all private rented sector clients said their debt problem or a bad credit rating affected their ability to rent. People commonly experienced a ‘debt premium’ in the form of higher deposits, higher costs, and the need for guarantors;
- Those currently living in the social rented sector were most likely to have experienced the threat of eviction, but current private sector tenants were more likely to have experienced it. Among StepChange clients living in the private rented sector, one in five had previously experienced eviction and another 17 per cent had been forced to move;
- Debt problems, and the fear of being unable to get another private sector tenancy, meant that over half of StepChange private rented sector clients did not report problems to their landlords for fear of eviction.
- In addition, some 90 per cent of benefit-claiming tenants in the charity’s sample said their benefits did not cover their rent.
In addition to a review of the role of the private rented sector, StepChange wants protection from eviction for rent arrears to be firmly embedded in the government’s new ‘debt breathing space’ and statutory debt repayment plan schemes, plus an evaluation of the Scottish open ended tenancy approach and its end to what it calls “no-fault” evictions.
“While it may seem obvious that debt has a negative impact on people’s housing options, what may come as a surprise is the central position of the private rented sector in acting as the main source of housing for vulnerable people in problem debt” claims StepChange spokesperson Alison Blackwood.
“A cross-department government review would help to consider these issues in the round, and help to identify how they could be addressed. In the meantime, steps that can be taken include a thoughtful approach to tenant protections in the design of the new Breathing Space scheme, and a fair approach to using rent payments to build credit records.”