Britain’s housing boom has provided lots of opportunities for unscrupulous landlords
Ever since Peter Rachman gained notoriety for his exploitation and intimidation of tenants in London’s Notting Hill in the 1950s and early 1960s, Britain has been familiar with the phenomenon of the rapacious private landlord. “Rachmanism” later entered the Oxford English Dictionary, defining “extortion or exploitation by a landlord of tenants of dilapidated or slum property”.
Britain’s 30-year housing boom, combined with a scarcity of affordable housing, has provided plenty of opportunities for unscrupulous landlords 40 years on. The charity Shelter has revealed examples of a minority of “rogue landlords” in 2010 who make their tenants’ lives miserable with harassment, illegal eviction, unfit properties and withheld deposits.
But it is mainstream, law-abiding landlords whose rents have risen so much that the housing benefit bill has inflated to a colossal £21bn. The coalition government’s hope is that a series of measures to limit the levels of housing benefit available to recipients will mean that they have to charge less. Whether they will remains to be seen. The fate of thousands of families depends on the government guessing right.
It is the long, steep rise in house prices that led to such a radical gamble by this coalition government – one that critics have warned could drive people out of wealthy inner-cities.
Margaret Thatcher’s Housing Act, passed in 1980, gave council tenants the right to buy their homes. By 1982, 400,000 families had exercised that right. By 2003, the number was 1.5m. As the stock of affordable, rented accommodation shrank, a property boom took hold, and rents kept pace with rocketing house prices.
Meanwhile not enough new affordable homes were being built. Many would agree that former Labour and Conservative governments have to share the blame. As senior Labour figures now admit, the Blair and Brown governments did little to ease the problem of out-of control property prices, high rents and a housing shortage. The housebuilding programmes that were undertaken were too little too late.
In the latter stages of Labour’s 13 years in power, the buy-to-let phenomenon drove up property prices still further. Those who could not afford to climb on the property ladder were obliged to pay some of the highest rents in Europe. Or, in the case of the unemployed and low-paid, councils were obliged to pay those rents for them.
As Campbell Robb, chief executive of the charity Shelter, puts it: “There is not enough affordable housing because of decades of under-investment in housebuilding.”
Five decades after Rachman, housing is still an emotive issue – one that could make or break this government.
Need a Loan? Visit Secured Loans Broker.
View full post on Free Secured Loans Advice