Around 20% of UK households now rent their home from a private landlord, with a further 17% renting from a council or housing association. Although the exact figure is unknown, Mendip District Council estimates that there are now over 7000 privately rented homes in our district.
For some people renting can work fine, but others struggle with insecure tenure, cramped or poor-quality accommodation and continually rising costs. Alarmingly, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors predicted in 2018 that UK rents will climb by 15% over the next five years, with the South-West and East Anglia experiencing the sharpest growth. The growth of AirBnB and second home properties in Frome only contributes to the problem.
And although one in five households in the private rented sector rely on Universal Credit, in a town like Frome there is a crippling mismatch between benefit levels (the Fixed Housing Allowance) and the market rent. For example, in November 2019 the average monthly rent of a two-bed property in Frome was £735 pcm (www.home.co.uk, November 2019) whereas the local housing allowance (benefits) for a two-bed property is £535 pcm. As a result, people who are in receipt of Universal Credit – or a pension – can have great difficulty acquiring and maintaining a home in the private rented sector.
Landlords have also shared their struggles with us, such as how to keep properties well-maintained and compliant in the face of constantly changing legislation, how to cope with tenants who can’t or won’t pay, and how to handle a negative and often hostile public image.
Some landlords feel they have tried to offer a fair deal to renters and had their trust broken, their properties damaged and have ended up out-of-pocket.
Although this is a national issue, the current popularity of Frome and the growth of Airbnb and second home properties here is making the situation even more difficult.
Fair Housing for Frome has been active on a number of fronts. We’ve founded the Frome Landlords Association to bring landlords together, understand their needs, and help them understand and fulfil their responsibilities. We’ve carried out research into the needs of renters and shared our findings in a leaflet and on Facebook.
We’re also looking into the potential of lodging as a response to the significant number of large under-occupied properties in the town.