Like a growing number of thirty-somethings, I still rent out.

I decided to live and work in London and, as a young journalist, my first few jobs didn’t pay very well – meaning I didn’t start saving seriously until I was in my thirties.

And my family is in the Midlands – too far from work to think about living with either of my parents if they really wanted me back.

I also admit that in my youth I had a defeatist attitude. I calculated that it would take me over ten years to save up enough for a deposit on a house, and even then my salary might not be enough for a mortgage – so what’s the point?

Cost concerns: Renters grapple with cost-of-living crisis – but rents could rise even more if landlords are pushed out of the market

Today, I’m a lot closer to my goal of buying a house, thanks to a huge boost in savings during the pandemic and the fact that I now have a partner to share the costs with – although the rapid rise in house prices over the past two years has certainly set us back.

But the experience left me in eleven years of renting, during which time I accumulated an impressive 10 properties.

I have had many complaints about landlords over the years – from shoddy and downright unsafe houses (I was once electrocuted by a toaster and also lived in a house where the front door didn’t lock from the inside) to £400 a month rent increases and unfair eviction, I just didn’t have the strength to fight.

I also had good hosts. Especially the one who returned my deposit without first inspecting the apartment when breaking up with my live-in boyfriend took a major hit in my finances – and allowed me to stay past the end of my contract while I planned what to do next.

And tenants can be bad guys too, of course. Our sister title Money Mail this week featured a case study of a random landlord who was ripped off for £31,000 by a tenant who moved in with fake references and then failed to pay rent for six months.

Because of delays in getting a court order, it took her 456 days to evict him.

However, I can understand why landlords don’t get sympathy from the general public.

Stories of landlords grappling with rising mortgage rates (now at their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis) and rising taxes can be seen as the world’s smallest fiddle, especially at a time when rents have soared to 11 percent per year.

But while anyone who owns more than one home is undoubtedly in a lucky position, not all landlords are swimming in cash. Many are ‘occasional’ landlords who rent out their home when, for example, they move in with a partner.

We should pay attention when such landlords say that it’s harder than ever to make money from rental properties. This is important because when landlords pay more mortgages and taxes, they will charge tenants higher rents.

They may even decide to stop being landlords altogether and sell their homes – especially if, as in our example, they’ve been struggling to get rid of a tenant who hasn’t paid rent or vandalized their property.

And as much as we love to hate them, an exodus of landlords would make life worse for tenants.

The real estate market works on competition. When there are fewer homes available for purchase than those willing to buy them, bidding wars begin and prices rise. That is why the price of housing is now so out of line with wages.

But the same applies to the rental market. With fewer landlords, rents would become even more expensive because the homes that were available would command a higher premium.

The long-term solution, in my view, is for the government to incentivize the construction of more houses – both private and communal.

This would provide safe homes for those on lower incomes and free up more privately owned homes for renters like me who can afford to pay market rates.

In the process, it may even lower rents a bit, as demand will be less buoyant.

But this has been suggested by housing experts for years and is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

So how can we make the rental market fairer for both landlords and tenants? I have a few suggestions.

Understand the eviction process

When a landlord wants to evict a tenant, they have two options: Section 8, which is used if the tenant has failed to pay rent or damaged the property, or a Section 21 notice – also known as a ‘no-fault eviction’ – if they just want their property back .

Liz Truss announced that the latter would be scrapped during her brief premiership – but now there are rumors that the plan will be shelved.

And post-pandemic delays mean landlords are taking much longer – sometimes more than a year – to get Chapter 8 and 21 orders. That’s a long time to stand by and watch your property be destroyed by a rogue tenant.

This backlog needs to be closed urgently. With more confidence that they can evict problem tenants quickly if necessary, it could persuade more landlords to stay in the market – and ultimately benefit the respectful tenants who make up the vast majority.

Longer leases should be the norm

I signed a two-year lease on my current apartment. This gives me a little security and protects me from a large rent increase at the end of the first year, and the landlord knows that he does not have the trouble and expense of finding another tenant, or the apartment is empty for at least 24 months. Win-win.

Prohibition of “asking for rent”

Properties must be advertised at the price a tenant will actually pay.

Asking rent creates a situation where tenants are forced to push their budgets to the absolute limits of what they can afford. It is unbearable.

It also leaves them with no financial wiggle room if the landlord wants to raise the rent later in the tenancy – and they could be worse off if the tenant decides to leave.

The rules for rent increases are clear

By law, landlords can increase rent after a fixed term based on “market rates” – ie. of how much other properties in the area are renting.

In practical terms, this means that a quick search on Rightmove or Zoopla can essentially decide how much tenants are paying in next year’s rent.

A more reasonable approach might be for landlords to agree in advance with the tenant to increase the rent by a certain percentage each year.

No tenant likes a rent increase, but this seems less arbitrary – it would be easier for tenants to budget and prepare for increases in advance. And the landlord gets a guaranteed rent increase.

References of landlords

It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but I’d love to see a system where renters could give other renters links about their landlords, just like landlords do about their tenants. Surely that’s only fair?

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