Thousands of private renters in the North West are said to have suffered illegal acts at the hands of landlords, according to new research.
The survey by Shelter and YouGov revealed reports from renters that landlords have threatened, harassed or assaulted them, cutting off utilities and entering their homes without permission.
In the last year, the housing charity received almost 17,000 helpline calls from people reporting problems with their landlord.
But Shelter’s director of services, Alison Mohammed, believes that despite the small minority of landlords causing ‘chaos’, there are long-term solutions to consider.
“It’s shocking that a small number of rogue landlords who are exploiting the housing crisis can cause so much havoc and misery in the lives of renters in the North West,” she said.
“The only way to fix the problem long-term is to make renting fit for purpose for the millions of ordinary families searching for a safe and stable home.
“For anybody experiencing problems right now, Shelter gives them somewhere to turn for support and legal advice when a rogue landlord crosses the line.”
Brenda, a mother of two daughters from Manchester, found herself on the end of landlord injustice.
After she found a cottage to rent in Oldham, she asked her landlord for repairs because of the poor conditions her family found themselves in – but was given an eviction notice instead.
This was after spending six weeks repairing the cottage with her own expenses.
“Before moving in, I had the cottage professionally cleaned because of the damp smell,” she said.
“The cleaner told me that the property was damp throughout and particularly bad in the bedrooms and the lounge.
“I asked the agent to rectify the problem and it was decided that the walls would be painted with damp-proofing paint. When the decorator began work, the ceiling fell down in the lounge. A two-week task turned into a six-week project.
“I had to laugh when the landlord blamed me for the ceiling collapsing because wallpaper had been removed.
“A neighbour told me that the previous tenants had moved out because of the damp. I was extremely worried about the effect it would have on my 11-year-old and my daughter’s baby was on its way in the January.
“We moved in seven weeks after we were supposed to. By that time, I’d paid for most of the work.”
Brenda then sent a letter stating that if more repairs were not carried out then she would do them herself and deduct it from the rent.
But when it became evident that no more work would be done, she received a section 21 eviction notice.
She explained: “We were given two months to leave. We were being evicted because I asked for repairs. I was shocked and felt guilty because I had put my home at risk.
“I withdrew our legal action hoping the landlord would reconsider but I was served with court papers. As a lawyer, I worked for a law centre helping other people. I struggled to cope but I had to be strong for my family. I felt so alone and ashamed.”
Shelter’s helpline advisor, Mark Cook explained that Brenda’s circumstances are not unique and can be worse.
He said: “Every day at Shelter we speak to people desperate for help because their lives are being made unbearable by a rogue landlord.
“Some of their experiences are truly awful – from renters who have been illegally evicted and had their belongings burned, to those who’ve had their utilities cut off because their landlord wants to intimidate them.
“No-one should have to put up with a landlord who breaks the law and it’s so important to know your rights as a renter. Shelter is here to help anyone having problems with their landlord.”
Shelter’s free expert advice is available online at shelter.org.uk/advice or through their helpline 0808 800 4444.
Image courtesy Lars Plougmann, with thanks.