Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Alice Ashworth


1. A lack of regulation in the private rented housing sector has allowed rental costs in London to inflate to unsustainable levels that are unaffordable for many people, including those on salaries above the national average. It is now commonplace for professionals in their thirties to live in shared housing, a prospect that would have been unthinkable in previous decades.

2. Renting is a long-term arrangement for those who cannot afford to save for a housing deposit and who do not have an alternative means of raising the necessary funds. Yet in the absence of adequate regulation, tenants have no security of tenure and are subject to rent increases or eviction every time their rental contract is renewed.

3. I urge the Committee to call for regulation of the sector, including rent controls, to enable private tenants to live in dignity, without the fear that they will be forced from their home on a recurrent basis.


4. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the Select Committee’s inquiry into the private rented housing sector. As an individual who has been renting in the private housing sector for a number of years, with no foreseeable prospect of buying my own home, I am keen to share my personal experience of the sector with the Committee.

5. I am a 30 year old single woman working as a policy expert for a national charity in central London. According to the latest ONS figures (November 2012), my salary is just above the national average for full-time workers in the UK. Nevertheless current rental prices make it impossible for me to rent a one bedroom flat (or even a studio) on my own. I currently spend more than a third of my monthly net income to rent a room in a property I share with two others. With such a large proportion of my income being spent on rent, I am unable to save for a deposit and I therefore envisage I will be renting for the foreseeable future.

6. I am motivated to write this response having been forced from my home twice in the past year. My current home is in the process of being sold, while the owner of my previous home (ten months ago, after just twelve months of living in that property) increased the rent of the property by 65%. Having sought advice from Citizens’ Advice, I understand that in both cases the homeowners acted within their legal rights. While I would have preferred in each case to commit to a longer tenure, competition for rental properties in London is fierce and tenants are in a weak bargaining position when it comes to agreeing long-term rental contracts.

7. Aside from the emotional and practical upheaval of having had to move so frequently in the past year, this has also had a material impact on my credit rating. Those like myself who do not own my own home are already at a disadvantage when it comes to borrowing as this is seen by lenders to increase my credit risk. In my case I believe the short-term nature of my recent tenancies has contributed to me being turned down for credit cards at a time when I most needed extra funds.

8. Unlike many in Britain, I am not intent on owning my own home. I lived and worked in Germany for a number of years, and grew accustomed to a culture in which renting is a feasible long-term option for the majority of the population; in Germany tenants’ rights are strictly protected and landlords and landladies are prevented from subjecting tenants to significant rent increases or imminent eviction. Following this experience, I find myself increasingly frustrated by the comparative lack of regulation in the private rental sector in Britain. While I am content to spend a proportion of my salary on rent, provided the cost of renting is reasonable and affordable, the British private rental sector currently provides no stability or security of tenure.

9. I am also frustrated that such disproportionately high levels of rent in London make renting a home on my own unfeasible. As a professional in my early thirties with a respectable career and a salary above the national average, this seems remarkable. This inhibits my life choices and makes the question of having children unthinkable at the present time. The Prime Minister has suggested that those on housing benefit should be required to share with others, in recognition that this has become the norm in the private rental sector. Rather than condoning this as an acceptable arrangement, the Government should instead be questioning why the sector has encouraged this damaging trend.

10. In conclusion, I urge the Committee to call for better regulation of the private rented housing sector, including rent controls. This will provide much-needed stability for people like myself who have no alternative but to rent on a long-term basis.

January 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013