Understanding the issues facing private renters

Throughout April May and June, renters that have been supported by our services in the last year joined a team of canvassers to survey private tenants across Southwark, gathering insights into their renting situation.

Citizens Advice Southwark and the Southwark Private Renters Forum wanted to engage local private renters on the issues facing them and provide more opportunities to engage with about their rights as a tenant. For us, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to offer some paid work to renters we’ve supported on our Southwark Private Renters Project.

Led by our student social worker Aimee, and then later by a renter team leader, the team took to the streets knocking doors in Camberwell, Peckham and Elephant and Castle, handing out leaflets and putting up posters with a QR code in busy shopping areas, libraries, GP surgeries, children’s centres and more, for people to submit online

responses. Along with the rest of the Forum, who shared links to the survey on their websites and across their network, the survey received 195 responses from renters across the borough.

For our service users, the opportunity to take on some ad hoc paid work that didn’t interfere with their benefits, but that also provided extra income, was a welcome and offer. It was also a chance to increase confidence and connect to more people, in particular for those who have been out of work for some time or isolated in their community. Many of those who have taken part have been able to spend the money they earned on items for their property or contributing to their rent.

“It has been an amazing experience to be able to provide employment opportunities to residents, especially during a financial crisis. Many of those who have taken part have used their pay to buy items for their property or to help towards their rent.” – Carly Jones, Operations Manager

What did we learn?

The Private Renters Forum has been gathering the results of the survey, as well as insights gathered in several Know Your Rights sessions delivered across May. Much of the learnings we gathered reflects what our own clients have been facing over the last year. For example, many people cited they had issues with landlords not responding quickly enough to disrepair issues; the affordability crisis with very high rents putting pressure on household finances and making tenancies insecure; and stress around not being able to afford properties in their chosen area, with some being forced out of borough to find a suitable home.

The engagement work of the Private Renters Forum in Southwark will continue over the next several months, with more Know Your Rights sessions at local services and further surveys. In addition, a new website, social media channels and events will be set up to continue sharing advice about tenant’s rights.

Meanwhile, the survey is still open for responses from any Southwark-based private renters who would like to contribute to the research – you can fill in your responses here.

And the next Know your rights session is taking place on Weds 10th August at 11.30am – 2pm at St Giles Parish Hall. It is open to any private renter in Southwark and is hosted by a housing solicitor from our partners Southwark Law Center. Find out more and register here.