Volatile rental market is damaging childhoods

1 May 2013

Young girl surrounded by boxes and bags

Shelter’s new report has uncovered the damaging impact of a childhood spent in England’s volatile private rental market.

The report, ‘Growing up renting’, reveals that families with children are bearing the brunt of the insecure tenancies, high rents, and constant moves that are standard in today’s market.

It's based on research with over 4,000 private renters – the largest study of its kind ever conducted.

1 in 5 families in England now rent privately, yet tenancy contracts of just 6 or 12 months are the norm. Government research shows that renting families are nine times as likely to have moved in the last year than families who own their homes.

The report reveals many problems created by short-term tenancies:

  • 1 in 10 renting families have had to change their children’s school in the past five years.
  • 44% of renting parents say that their child would have a better childhood if they had more stability in their home.
  • 13% said that the move was stressful or upsetting for their children.
  • 1 in 8 renting families (13%) reported having to sofa surf with family and friends while between homes.

Sharon, her partner and their children aged 4 and 8 were forced to move when their landlord sold their rented home. Sharon said:

‘It feels like there’s no security in our home – we could be asked to leave at any time. We’d looked for months for a long-term let, so were devastated when we had to move our daughter from her school when she’d only just started.

‘I’m dreading having to move again. We’ve already had to move four times in the last four years. We’re good tenants and we look after the place, but I’m scared to ask my landlord for anything in case he asks us to leave. This is no way to bring up children.’

Shelter is calling for improvements to tenancy contracts to give children a more stable home as they grow up.

The Stable Rental Contract would give renters five year tenancies during which they could not be evicted without good reason and would not face rent rises above inflation.

Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb said: ‘These stark findings prove that today’s volatile rental market is simply not fit for purpose. For the vast majority of renting parents, renting isn’t a lifestyle choice, yet for many it’s putting their children’s education, happiness and wellbeing in jeopardy.

‘Making tenancy contracts more stable could improve the lives of children across the country by giving families more stability in their homes, and would give landlords a more predictable income.

‘The nine million renters in this country deserve better. It’s high time we faced up to the fact that renting is no longer a stepping stone, but the only long-term option available to rising numbers of families. We have to give children growing up in rented homes a better deal.’

Shelter’s study with 4,000 private renters was supported by British Gas as part of our partnership to improve homes in the private rented sector.

Read more about children living in private rented homes in Shelter's report 'Growing up renting.'