Over a million renters victim to law-breaking landlords

Posted 26 Sep 2016

New research released today has revealed that in the last year alone over a million – or one in eight – private renters across England are suffering at the hands of a landlord who has broken the law.

Alarmingly, the survey of over 3,250 renters by Shelter and YouGov uncovered a range of problems with law-breaking landlords committing offences ranging from unlawful behaviour to serious criminal offences. While reports of landlords entering homes without permission and deposits not being properly protected were among the most common issues, many cases of more shocking behaviour from rogue landlords were also uncovered in the survey.

The most striking findings included:

  • The equivalent of over 64,000 renters reported that a landlord has cut off their utilities without their consent and almost 50,000 said their belongings had been thrown out of their home and the locks changed

  • Over 200,000 reported having been abused, threatened or harassed by a landlord

  • Over 600,000 renters have had their home entered by a landlord without permission or notice being given

  • Over 110,000 renters felt they had been treated unfairly due to their race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.

The housing charity is warning that a minority of rogue landlords are causing misery to the lives of renters by committing these civil and criminal offences. Often renters don’t know what their rights are. In just the last year, Shelter’s website has received over 220,000 unique visits to its advice pages for people facing problems with a private landlord.

Shelter’s helpline adviser, Danielle Goodwin, said: “Every day at Shelter we speak to people at the end of their tether after a law-breaking landlord has caused chaos in their lives. These range from instances where the renter has been unaware of their rights, to cases where renters are exploited and subjected to terrible experiences by a minority of law breaking landlords.

“Too many people simply don’t know their rights as a renter – but Shelter is here to help anyone having landlord problems with free, expert advice. As a first port of call go to shelter.org.uk/advice or for urgent problems call our helpline on 0808 800 4444.”

Case study: Jayne, 35, has had to move after going through two experiences with rogue landlords that were among the most shocking that Shelter has encountered, and involved the police on both occasions.  

Jayne says: "The problem is when you move in, you have absolutely no idea who you’re dealing with. I took one room because, even though the property was in a bad way, it was all I could afford. I paid the deposit and a month's rent upfront, but as soon as I moved in the landlord raised the rent by 50%. When I said I couldn’t pay he came back to the house with a replica gun to threaten me – it was terrifying.

"Another couple I rented a room from would enter my room without permission, they'd eat my food out of the fridge and the landlady even stalked me after I left. Thankfully the police charged her with harassment."

Notes to editors:

Survey results based on a YouGov survey of 3,261 private renters in England, aged 18+, September 2016, online, and weighted to fit profile of England's private rented sector. Estimated number of renter calculations are by Shelter and are based on Census and English Housing survey estimate of 8.1m private renters in England aged 18+. The table below shows the full results:

All figures - in the last 12 months, base: 3261All rentersEstimated number adult renters (rounded)
A landlord/ agent has entered my home without me being given any notice/ chance to give permission7.50%602,500
I have been abused/ threatened/ harassed by a landlord or letting agent2.50%200,600
A landlord/ agent has cut off a utility (gas, electricity, water) without my consent for no good reason0.80%64,400
A landlord/ agent has thrown my belongings out of the home AND changed the locks0.60%49,500
I have paid a deposit to a landlord/ agent which has not been protected in a Government scheme4.60%374,300
I have been treated unfairly by a landlord/ agent due to my race/ nationality/ gender/ sexual orientation1.50%118,900
Any one of the above in the last 12 months12.90%1,045,700

Anyone having problems with their landlord can get free and independent expert advice from Shelter at shelter.org.uk/advice or by calling the helpline on 0808 800 4444.

Shelter helpline adviser Danielle Goodwin’s top tips on landlord problems:

1. Contact your landlord. Get in touch with your landlord and let them know what the issue is. Make sure you're clear about the facts and what you want to happen.

2. Get organised. Find out what you need to do to resolve your problem. Shelter’s website www.shelter.org.uk/advice and free housing helpline 0808 800 4444 can let you know what your rights are and advise on your next step.

3. Be persistent. You might need to get back in touch with your landlord. Explain what you'll do if the situation doesn't improve and describe how the problem is affecting you, Make sure you always stay polite and reasonable.

4. Make a complaint. If you can’t resolve the issue with your landlord, take your complaint to the next level. Make sure you see the process through - it can take determination to get a result.

5. Focus on the future. Whether things go your way or not, try to look forwards. A good relationship with your landlord is important and you’ll be able to work through problems better if you build trust and co-operation.