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Private renters who complain about disrepair more than twice as likely to be slapped with an eviction notice

Posted 30 Mar 2023

Private renters who complained to their landlord, letting agent or local council in the last three years were two and a half times (159%) more likely to be handed an eviction notice than those who had not complained, new research from Shelter reveals.

Due to the lack of regulation in private renting, millions of tenants are trapped in a ‘catch-22’ situation whereby they either put up with poor conditions, or risk being kicked out for complaining. Shockingly, a quarter of private renters (25%) – just over 2 million people - have not asked their landlord for repairs to be carried out or conditions improved for fear of being evicted.

The research, compiled by YouGov, lays bare the extent of disrepair people are being forced to put up with. In the last year:

  • Three in four (76%) of private renters in England – equivalent to more than 6.2 million people – have experienced disrepair in their home.

  • Over half of tenants (51%) had issues with damp and mould; 31% had issues with lack of hot water or heating; and 18% had electrical hazards or issues with essential safety equipment in their homes, like smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

The alarming findings mirror what the housing charity is seeing through its own services. Since the beginning of the year, Shelter’s online advice pages on disrepair have been accessed every 18 seconds. This is a 53% increase compared with the same period last year.

Shelter is warning the government’s unfulfilled promises to reform private renting are leaving millions of people trapped in dire conditions and powerless to do anything about it without risking eviction. It is urging the government to urgently introduce the Renters’ Reform Bill to put an end to unfair evictions, drive up standards, and hold landlords to account for poor behaviour.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: "By dragging its heels on the Renters Reform Bill, the government has left private renters in a terrible catch 22 – they either shut up and put up with disrepair, or risk more than doubling their chances of eviction in a cost of living crisis.

“Day in day out Shelter hears from people who are forking out huge sums on rent while living in nightmarish conditions because private renting is woefully under-regulated. It is a travesty that so many private renters are too afraid to complain about the mould growing all over their kids’ clothes, or the water pouring in through broken window frames, in case it costs them their home.

“Renters are bearing the brunt of government dithering over urgently needed private rental reforms. Renters can’t wait any longer, the government must urgently make its Renters’ Reform Bill law to protect tenants who call out poor conditions from unfair evictions and homelessness.“

“Even before being evicted, my daughter and I would spend a lot of time at the library, church, or cafes so I didn’t have to worry about her being in the damp and cold.” (Chiara, 33)

Up until recently 33-year-old Chiara who works as a teacher, her husband Ben and their three-year-old daughter Maggie called their privately rented two-bed in Leyton, East London, home. The flat had severe damp and mould, but when Chiara wrote a letter requesting repairs from the landlord, they were served with section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice.

Chiara says: “Last Christmas Eve we received a 25% increase in rent, despite us living with long-term damp and mould. I complained, and in the New Year the landlord responded with a section 21 eviction notice, saying they didn’t accept any responsibility for the disrepair or damage.

“Even before the section 21, we’d spend a lot of time at the library, church, or cafes, just so we didn’t have to worry about Maggie being in the damp and cold. I was up all night looking online for properties, but it’s really hard out there. Rents have massively gone up. People are so desperate they’ll consider taking a flat that's mouldy or in disrepair just because there's nothing else.

“There really needs to be a way of holding landlords accountable, or for there to be some sort of record so you can look and see if someone is a good landlord. The thought of this happening to us in our next place always looms over me. I pretend everything is OK in front of Maggie, but the worry of becoming homeless is making me feel ill.”


Notes to editors:

About the research: Figures about private renters’ experiences of disrepair are from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 2,006 private renting adults (aged 16+). The survey was carried out online between 24th February and 14th March 2023, and results were weighted to be representative of private renters. Number of private renters have been calculated by Shelter using data from the English Housing Survey.

Renters who have complained to the council, landlord or letting agent (about repairs, conditions or harassment, etc.) in the last three years and also been evicted or threatened with eviction in the same period21%1,747,404
Renters who have not complained to the council, landlord or letting agent (about repairs, conditions or harassment, etc.) in the last three years but been evicted or threatened with eviction in the same period8%675,543
Renters who have experienced disrepair in the last year76%6,221,018
Renters who have experienced damp in the last year39%3,199,206
Renters who have experienced mould in the last year45%3,680,684
Renters who have experienced damp and / or mould in the last year51%4,153,154
Renters who have experienced a problem with the boiler / no hot water / no heating in the last year31%2,537,584
Renters who have had electrical hazards in the last year10%813,927
Renters who have had a carbon monoxide, smoke or fire alarm not working in the last year12%958,042
Renters who have had electrical hazards and / or a carbon monoxide, smoke or fire alarm not working in the last year18%1,473,911

Shelter’s web data: Shelter website data sourced internally comparing total pageviews of pages within the 'Repairs' section between 1 January and 26 March 2023 with the same period on 2022. Data accessed 27 March 2023.

About the Renters Reform Bill: In the last State Opening of Parliament [delivered 10 May 2022], the government committed to bring forward a Renters' Reform Bill within this parliamentary session (2022-23). The bill "will abolish so-called ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions and strengthen landlords’ rights of possession, providing a fair and effective market for both tenants and landlords.

About Shelter: Shelter exists to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. Shelter believes that home is everything. Learn more at