Shortage of accomodation leading to increasing numbers of beds in sheds. Unscrupulous landlords emerging in a growing and lucrative market
As private rents in cities rise to prices that are out of reach of ordinary workers, but the low-paid are pushed not just to the suburbs, but to the absolute margins of society. Letting agents can ask for one, two, sometimes three months of rent and then pile extortionate fees on top. For people on poverty wages without access to these sums, the landlords who don’t ask for guarantors, and hundreds of pounds in fees and deposits, are their only option. In return they get appalling housing and live with the constant threat of eviction. Often out buildings are used as accomodation and this new breed of accomodation has become known as beds in sheds
A report showed that the crackdown by Slough Borough Council on what is becoming known as beds in sheds on landlords using dodgy outbuildings as accommodation has not met the aims scheduled in the previous timetable. The council had planned a £200-per-day fine for landlords who did not provide a valid energy performance certificate (EPC) for outbuildings being used as accommodation.
However, as the project started, the national legislation removed the need of EPCs for small ancillary buildings, thus wrecking the plan.
Officers were forced to appeal to ‘effective regulation’ such as referring landlords to the taxman for undeclared income or referring legal outbuildings to the valuation office so they can collect council tax.
38 outbuildings have been referred to the valuation office for council tax determination and banding since February, according to the latest figures. 28 cases require further investigation while 8 have been confirmed, with two owners appealing. That brings the estimated total referred to 153.
The report also states every outbuilding would bring in an extra £923,63 on average in council tax per year. Moreover, since the beginning of the project, 613 landlords have been referred to HMRC, to investigate on undeclared incomes.
Newham now has a private rent property licensing scheme to try to drag these modern day Peter Rachmans into the open and end the practice of renting out beds in sheds and beds in garages. It’s still a struggle though, with many tenants terrified to come forward for fear of homelessness, or because they’re undocumented migrants.
But these landlords let out these damp, crowded rooms with diabolical terms for one reason: because they can. In 2010 Grant Shapps, then housing minister, scrapped planned private rental regulations because he claimed the 2004 Housing Act covered any problems with tenancies. It’s a fool that assumes the market will always regulate itself if left untouched.
This report draws our attention to the climate of dishonesty and chaos, which often characterises the British housing market.