As times get more difficult for those who already have it tough, the state of the rental market in the UK is being thrown into sharp focus. At last we are starting to see some recognition of the fact that there are many properties in this country that are being let without even the most basic of facilities in place. This recognition has come from a group of MPs – an all-party parliamentary group on hunger who have highlighted the fact that many of those in the UK who are being forced by their current financial circumstances to use food banks are unable to carry out basic cooking, such as boiling rice or pasta, as they simply don’t have the facilities to do so. The result, says the parliamentary group, is that some of the poorest in society are being forced to rely on high cost, nutritionally empty ready meals that perpetuate the cycle of poor nutrition and overspending.
The group is looking for councils to be given powers to require that basic items, such as a fridge and a two-ring electrical hob, are made a condition of landlords being able to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit. If these basics aren’t provided them the group is suggesting that a landlord should have their licence revoked.
These measures are just one of a raft of changes that are being suggested in order to crack down on poverty in the UK. The fact that they are necessary also highlights the significant issues that many tenants have with rented properties – and the huge disparity that there can be between two properties that are worth the same, rent-wise. Our forums are full of stories from people who have found themselves in a situation where they don’t have basic facilities. There seems to be a fundamental issue of expectation with respect to what a landlord is obliged to provide – we all assume that a rental flat should come with central heating, a fridge and a cooker but the reality is that this is not the case. If, for example, there is no central heating in a property that you rent when you sign the tenancy agreement then the landlord is not obliged to provide you with it. If you move into a property with central heating noted in the tenancy then the landlord must maintain it but there’s not currently an obligation to provide central heating where none is already installed.
In many ways, given that the UK – and especially London – is one of the most expensive places to live in the world, at The Tenant’s Voice we feel this is a very poor state of affairs. Our rents are high but the standards are low, so what has gone wrong? Well we aren’t going to get into discussions of free market principles, a lack of housing – affordable or otherwise – and a reluctance on the part of our government to provide any kind of rent control. But we are glad to see that people are starting to take action and that the reality of being a tenant in the UK is getting some truthful exposure at last.
What fixtures and fittings do you think every property for rent in the UK should have as a bare minimum? Leave your comments below.