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Ethnic minority tenants face greater threat of rent increase or eviction

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New data show that tenants who are members of a minority ethnic group are more than one-third more likely than white British or Irish renters to have been threatened with an unaffordable rent hike or an eviction.

A survey by Generation Rent (the operating name of the National Private Tenants Organisation) of 105 private renters found what it considered to be a deeply polarised market in which 38% of minority ethnic respondents had been threatened with an eviction. This compared to 28% of the white British and Irish tenants in the survey.

More than 20% of minority ethnic respondents said they had been threatened with rent increases they couldn’t afford while that applied to 16% of white tenants in the poll.

The figure for minority ethnic renters threatened with court action by their landlord or letting agent was 19%. For white tenants it was 8%.

The survey was conducted between 22 June and 14 September 2022. Of those taking part, 79 people were a member of a minority ethnic group and 25 respondents identified as white British or Irish. Given the current situation in the rental market, the discrepancy is likely to have worsened.

‘Blatant discrimination’

Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of Generation Rent, said: “The minority ethnic renters we spoke to have faced blatant discrimination and racism while navigating the private rented sector. But they also indicated key structural issues, such as income and affordability, which more insidiously acted as further barriers in accessing safe and secure housing.

“These renters disproportionately live in unsafe housing, faced higher rent and energy bill increases, and encounter more issues with their landlords and letting agents.”

Rising rents

The cost-of-living crisis was beginning to affect minority and lower-income renters disproportionately at the time of the poll, Generation Rent said, with 37% of minority respondents saying they had found it a lot harder to pay their rent in the previous six months, compared to 24% of white respondents.

Rent increases for the minority tenants surveyed averaged £130.69 more per month with energy costs rising by £104.38 per month. The average for white tenants was £86.75 more in rent each month and £59.44 more for energy bills.

Maintenance issues vary

Nearly 30% of minority ethnic respondents reported experiencing faulty electrics and 18% reported inadequate fire precautions in their current home. Among those who had reported their most recent repair issue to their landlord, minority ethnic respondents were 17% more likely than white British or Irish respondents to report that their landlord had not put the maintenance issue right.

Craw said: “Marginalised renters are too often met with landlords and letting agents that do not treat them or their issues seriously. They are too often forced to live in any housing they can find – regardless of the condition. And they are too often being forced to live in fear of their landlord’s response when exercising their rights.”

Applications galore

Even just crossing the threshold to view a property can be a hurdle.

Generation Rent quoted Noah, a mixed-race respondent, who commented: “It took more than 80 viewing applications, 25 in-person viewings, and 20 tenancy applications over a agreement.”

Another, Cameron, a focus group participant who identified as mixed white and black Caribbean, said: “There’s so many extra barriers, I’m at least blessed with the fact that like I’ve got a pretty European sounding name where, on paper, I’m not going to be immediately skimmed off by a racist landlord. But then it gets to a point where me or my family arrive at a viewing, and you can usually tell by an immediate reaction or the body language.”

Brianna, another focus group participant, said: “I’m earning over £36,000 per annum. Apparently that’s still not good enough to get somewhere. They’re now asking for a guarantor. And I’ve been to see more than 20 properties and I think most of them as soon as they see that you’re black, and I’m from a Jamaican background, they don’t want to rent, I’m not sure why. So, I’ve been struggling.”

It can be especially difficult to stand up for your rights without the proper paperwork. The survey also found that all of the white respondents said they had received a written tenancy agreement at the start of their rentals but that figure fell to 94% among the minority ethnic tenants. Among black respondents, the figure fell further to 84%.