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45% of private renters have been victims of illegal acts by their landlord or letting agent

Posted 14 Sep 2021

Shelter warns new Renters’ Reform Bill must help renters fight back against illegal behaviour

Over two-fifths (45%) of England’s private renting adults – equivalent to 3.7 million people - have been the victim of illegal behaviour from a landlord or letting agent, alarming new research from Shelter has revealed.   

An in-depth YouGov study of 3,500 English private renters revealed the most common illegal behaviour faced by renters is a landlord or letting agent entering their home without giving notice or a chance to give permission – a quarter (25%) of respondents had experienced this, equivalent to 2.1 million people. 

Safety and standards were also a concern, as 22% of private renters (1.8 million people) said essential safety or household appliances like smoke alarms, central heating or water supplies were not working when they moved into a property.  

And despite tenancy deposits often costing people thousands of pounds, 18% of private renters (1.5 million people) said their landlord or letting agent had broken the law by failing to secure their deposit in an approved Government Protection Scheme. 

Even more worryingly, nearly one in ten (9%) private renters (731,000 people) said they have been assaulted, threatened or harassed by their landlord or letting agent. 

Ahead of the Conservative Party conference, Shelter is calling on the government to keep its promise to provide greater protections for renters. The housing charity has warned that the upcoming, landmark Renters’ Reform Bill must include a National Landlord Register to ensure landlords fulfil their legal obligations, help regulate the private rental sector, and give renters the power to enforce their rights against law-breaking behaviour. 

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. 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.” 

Case study:Louise* is self-employed and lives in a private rental with her two daughters. Before moving in, her landlord illegally installed an unregistered gas boiler in one of the bedrooms. 

“Just before we moved into the property, the landlord installed an unregistered gas boiler. When I discovered the truth, it was really frightening because my daughter was suffering from headaches and the boiler was in her bedroom. We stopped using the room altogether until an engineer could check the boiler and make sure it was safe. It was so stressful not knowing if our home was dangerous or not.  

"I reported my landlord to the council, but they didn’t even reply. My landlord then served us with a Section 21 'no fault' eviction notice, because I complained. Fortunately, it was invalid. But he's still getting away scot-free with illegal behaviour and putting us through so much stress. I know how he behaved was not right, but I feel powerless. When you’re paying to rent a home, people should have more rights.” 

*Louise’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Any private renters worried about their housing situation can contact Shelter for free, expert advice by visiting: 


Notes to editors:

Shelter advice tips about key legal rights that private renters in England have:  

Knowing your landlord’s name and address- Private tenants have a legal right to know the name and address of their landlord. You can simply request this by sending a written letter to the landlord's agent. Tenants also have a right to obtain the names and addresses of directors if the landlord is a company, and must be informed of any sale or transfer to a new landlord 

Harassment and illegal eviction - If your landlord throws you out, changes the locks while you are out, pressures you to leave without serving the correct notice or going through the proper legal procedure, this is an illegal eviction. Harassment and illegal eviction are both criminal offences. Anyone in this situation should contact the tenancy relations officer at their local council, who can take action on your behalf or help you take action yourself.  

Repairs and safety - Landlords are legally responsible for keeping the structure and exterior of the property free from disrepair, along with ensuring that all the amenities and energy supplies in the property (e.g. water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating, heating water) are working properly. Private landlords must ensure that: 

All gas appliances and flues in the property are in a safe condition 

A Gas Safe registered engineer carries out an annual gas safety check 

They have a valid gas safety certificate 

Furniture provided in private rented accommodation, that has been let since 1 March 1993, must comply with fire safety requirements. 

Banned tenant fees - Private landlords and letting agents are banned from charging tenants, a licensee or other 'relevant person' a fee, other than a 'permitted payment', when setting up a tenancy agreement. The only permitted payments landlords or agents can charge for, are: 

tenancy deposit (up to maximum of five or six-weeks’ rent) 

holding deposit (up to maximum of one week’s rent) 

a fee in the event of a ‘relevant default’ (such as the costs of replacing a lost key) 

damages for breach of agreement 

in connection with tenant’s request for a variation, assignment, or surrender of a tenancy 

in respect of council tax, utilities, communication services and TV license 

Research Methodology:All percentages, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov PLC. Total sample size was 3561 adults who live in private rented accommodation. Fieldwork was carried out online between 6th August – 7th September. Numbers of renters have been calculated using data from the English Housing Survey.  

Private renters experiencing illegal acts has been defined as those who said they have ever experienced at least one of the following: 

My Landlord/ letting agent cut off my electricity/ gas/ water for no good reason  

My landlord/ agent has entered my home without me being given any notice/ chance to give permission  

My landlord/ agent has stolen or damaged my personal belongings or possessions  

I have paid a tenancy/ damage deposit to a landlord or agent and they have not placed the deposit with any of the approved government protection schemes  

I have been removed from a private rented home without being given the proper notice period and/or without the correct procedures being followed by the private landlord/agent  

I have experienced threatening behaviour, harassment or assault by my private landlord or letting agent  

Essential safety or household appliances / amenities were not working when I moved into a property (e.g. fire or smoke alarm, water or central heating)  

I have been treated unfairly by a landlord/ letting agent due to my race/ age/ nationality/ gender/ sexual orientation/ disability  

About Shelter:We exist to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. We believe that home is everything. Visit