A report by the Housing and Migration Network is the first national report to explore the needs of new migrants who live at the bottom end of the private rented sector.
Recent changes to the housing benefit system, in particular the government's single bedroom tax, mean that it is now more important than ever to address the needs of new migrants to the UK, 75% of whom are living in the private rented sector – usually in the worst conditions
A new report by the Housing and Migration Network entitled: ‘UK migrants and the private rented sector’, is the first national report to explore the needs and experience of new migrants who live at the bottom end of the sector. The Housing and Migration Network was jointly established by HACT and its funders - the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Migration Foundation of Metropolitan Housing Partnership.
Neil Coles, Project Lead for the Housing and Migration Network, said: “Recent migrants to the UK often have low awareness of their rights and responsibilities as tenants, and are more likely to be exploited, have irregular tenancies or to live in Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMOs) with poor conditions.”
“Newly arrived migrants often access accommodation through friends, or through employers and agents who find them work, avoiding channels like local authorities, mainstream advice agencies or high street letting agencies.
“This means lettings can often be informal, possibly without legal agreements, and sometimes involve unconventional arrangements such as putting people in outbuildings or obliging them to share with strangers. If tenants have complaints, they may be too intimidated to pursue them and unaware of their rights or of agencies that could help them.”
The report urges government bodies, social housing providers and private landlord groups to address the needs of recent migrants in the private rental market when making policies and delivering services. It suggests solutions that incentivise good landlords but are tough on the small minority of bad landlords and outlines practical solutions that have already been developed by local authorities, housing providers and voluntary and community groups.
Richard Lambert, Chief Executive at National Landlords Association (NLA), endorsed the report saying: “The private-rented sector plays an important role in meeting the housing needs of an increasingly diverse group of tenants. The report reinforces the importance of the industry working with local communities and neighbourhoods to improve standards for every household accessing rented accommodation.”
Roger Harding, Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs at Shelter, added: “The findings of this report are echoed in the cases Shelter advisers see on a daily basis: poor, insecure and sometimes dangerous housing provided by a small minority of rogue landlords. The growth and changing demographics of private renting means that a fresh look at how well it functions is urgently needed.”
Neighbourhood relations may deteriorate if action is not taken, the report warns, as houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) can instigate a range of environmental problems if landlords fail to manage the property adequately. In addition, a high concentration of new migrants in one area can lead to unlawful conversions of family homes to flats or HMOs, distorting local housing markets.
Neil Coles added: “The report is particularly timely as the private rented sector is growing rapidly and is under considerable pressure due to changes in government legislation. For example, local authorities are encouraged to use the private rented sector to house people who are in urgent need of accommodation. There are also changes in the local housing allowance system which make it harder for tenants to afford rents and many may start to look for cheaper accommodation.”
The report highlights the following:
- Some local authorities and housing associations play a very active role in ensuring that migrants and other vulnerable groups get access to better quality lettings in the private sector. More could learn from these organisations, and the report has a range of proposals including local lettings schemes, licensing schemes, caravan site management and social landlords acting as managing agents.
- Government bodies, social housing and private landlord groups and advice agencies should recognise the importance of recent migrants in the private rental market in their policy-making and in service provision.
- Current policies and services often ignore new migrants or are inappropriate. Properties which are badly managed and used by migrants – especially in multi-occupied properties – can create neighbourhood problems and fuel local tensions unless action is taken.
- A ‘private sector summit’ is recommended to exchange proposals between the sector, government and other bodies, and to develop ways of implementing them.