Research private rented sector

Big Lottery Private Rented Sector research
We conducted independent qualitative research on Glasgow’s Private Rented Sector. This new research report from Govan Law Centre, ‘Powerless: no expectations, choice or security – the voices of tenants living in the private rented sector in Glasgow’ comes at an important juncture. At a time of further socio-economic austerity policies, extremely low inflation, no significant wage or benefit rises and we have seen very significant year on year rent increases in the Scottish private rented sector.

Our report confirms that far too often tenants in Scotland’s private rented sector are getting very poor value for money. In addition to rent paid privately, there is almost half a billion pounds in housing benefit going into the Scottish private rented sector (PRS). And yet there is very little control of quality standards or indeed compliance with Scots housing law.

We found through our research and knowledge that the PRS has almost doubled in the last 12 years and now represents 14.6% of all households in Scotland. 18% of all homeless applications come via the PRS. The sector is riddled with bad and unlawful practice as this report evidences beyond any shadow of a doubt. The relationship between private landlord and tenant is utterly unbalanced and unequal. We asked tenants how they came to be living in the private rented sector, their plans for the future, whether they could afford their rent, the standard of their accommodation, deposits and repairs and about their relationship with their landlord.

What tenant’s said:
“Constant struggle to pay when the rent was raised, we sometimes went without food”
“It’s a rolling contract I have no control over the future”.
“Called the police after landlord assaulted me”
“I’m living here because I don’t have much choice”
“Every month I have Problems because housing benefit does not cover rent; it leaves me £90 to find… the letting agency are always on my back trying to evict me”

We listened to the personal experience of a wide range of tenants in Glasgow’s private rented sector.  Our report is their story. Their voice represents a common experience which we have no reason to believe is not replicated across Scotland and the UK. Central to our findings is that private tenants have little or no power in the relationship with their landlord, they have low expectations for standards of property or getting repairs done or being able to influence decisions made on their property, and have little or no choice in where they lived.

We found that private rented sector tenants felt ‘powerless’ to do much about their situation and lived a precarious existence always concerned about the future due to lack of security of tenure and resigned to the fact that they had no control to do much about it.  The lack of security of the tenancy was a fundamental issue that permeates the every part of the landlord and tenant relationship. The landlord could, as long as s/he follows a simple legal procedure, end the tenancy. This puts private tenants in a weak position in negotiating the terms and conditions and very often means they have to accept whatever the landlord does.

We used our research to inform those who work for private rented sector tenants and those who wish to improve policy and practice within the sector. This included: Voluntary sector organisations, PRS landlord associations, political parties, Unison, Unite, Glasgow City Council and The Scottish Government. The report was pivotal and provided vital evidence that there was an unmet need in terms of the most vulnerable Private Rented Sector Tenants. From the report we designed an effective and much needed city wide project; a dedicated and specialised service for PRS tenants one which would be capable of being tailored to the client’s needs in terms of legal advice and representation, Financial Inclusion and Capability, welfare rights and dedicated coordination of services for the client; a truly effective ‘wrap around’ service across the city.

Quotes from our rights hub independent evaluation report:
“They [ATOS] told me I was fit for work when I could hardly get out the door….even the guy where I signed on was concerned… I didn’t know how to appeal it….to be honest I didn’t want to go through that again anyway…I wasn’t sleeping….but (they) appealed for me and got me on DLA…..” Service User (Female, 58yrs)
“I was sanctioned cos I couldn’t do the work programme – I had tons of meetings about my daughter at that time [she was in foster care] and I couldn’t miss them. I thought that was that with DWP but GLC were great – got all my money backdated and everything……” Service User (Male, 24yrs) Glasgow City Mission
“It’s an excellent service. Informal testimonials from Service Users show that…”  The Marie Trust
“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive thing for us. We knew it would be a quality service Glasgow City Mission