Shelter accused of 'scaremongering' in private rental sector

A new report from Shelter that claims to have uncovered the damage done to children who grow up in private rental homes has hit controversy.
The report, Growing up renting, claims that children pay the price for insecure tenancies, high rents and constant moves that Shelter says are standard in today’s market. Some tenants have nowhere to go between tenancies and families end up sofa-surfing.

But a landlords’ body has accused Shelter of unacceptable scaremongering.

The Residential Landlords Association said that tenancies are not insecure – and that virtually all are ended by tenants themselves. Only 9% are ended by landlords.

The Shelter report is based on research with over 4,000 private renters – claimed to be the largest study of its kind ever conducted.
The study found that one in ten renting families have had to change their children’s school in the past five years because they moved from one rented home to another.
Nearly half  (44%) of renting parents say that their child would have a better childhood if they had more stability in their home. Of those families who have moved home in the last five years, 13% said that the move was stressful or upsetting for their children.

One in eight renting families (13%) reported having to sofa-surf with family and friends while between homes.
Shelter is calling for five-year tenancy contracts to give children a more stable home as they grow up.
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. Unpredictable rents and short-term tenancies are not only failing to meet the needs of families, they’re doing real damage to children’s lives.
“No child should have to deal with constant upheaval, a disrupted education and an atmosphere where parents are constantly worried about paying the rent or having to find somewhere new to live.

“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.”

The Residential Landlords Association said the claims were nonsense. Policy director Richard Jones said: “The RLA condemns the scaremongering that Shelter is engaged in. Whilst we agree that a small minority of landlords ruin the lives of tenants and should be banned from renting property, the reality is that the majority of landlords in the country provide a good service.

“At a time when increasing numbers of people are depending on the private rented sector for their housing, Shelter should act more responsibly and not promote inaccurate generalisations which only serve to frighten families into thinking that a majority of landlords can’t wait to throw them out, which is nonsense.

“The reality is that landlords will do all they can to keep tenants in their properties rather than face an empty property.”

He added: “Shelter are playing a dangerous game by frightening off investors from increasing the supply of much-needed private rented housing.”