‘They could just evict us’: the tenants hit by huge hikes in UK rents

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£8,000 a year; £300 a month; 60%. These are just some of the rent rises demanded from private tenants as winter approaches. The alternative can be eviction, sofa surfing or scrambling in an overheated market for another place. With homelessness the fear, it is extremely stressful.

The already expensive housing markets of London and the south-east are worst affected but it is a national problem. In Manchester Clara Graziani, 27, a customer services worker, was paying £695 a month on a city centre flat until she was served with an eviction notice in September. Her landlord used the “no fault eviction” process the government has repeatedly pledged to abolish, but still hasn’t. Graziani had agreed to pay 8% extra, but then, without explanation, she was evicted.

“They didn’t have to give a reason,” she said. “I was really stressed about the situation.”

An estate agent let slip the landlord’s plan was in fact to raise the rent to £895 – a 29% hike – and get someone else in.

“It was really, really hard to find somewhere else,” Graziani said. “When you see a flat on Rightmove, it could be deleted in two minutes because someone paid a holding deposit.” Eventually she paid a deposit on a flat without seeing it in person.

When she finally got in “it smelled a bit of damp in a couple of rooms”, she said.

Ygerne Price-Davies, 24, a domestic abuse worker who shares a rented home in south London, is facing eviction unless she and her housemates agree to a 13% rent increase.

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View image in fullscreenYgerne Price-Davies. Photograph: Anna Gordon/The Guardian

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“We are in negotiations to challenge the increase but it’s not looking great,” she said. “It’s stressful and scary. Because there is such demand for property we feel insecure and weak in terms of our bargaining power. They could just evict us.”

Those left vulnerable include two teachers, a healthcare assistant and a PhD student. The rent demand is made more galling by the fact that the home has been in disrepair for a long time, with sewage leaking into the kitchen for two months and mushrooms growing out of the ceiling.

Price-Davies, a member of the London Renters Union, said that when the letting agent saw the fungi, they laughed.

In east London, Jane, a freelancer who lives with her charity worker partner, is facing eviction at any moment. They have refused to pay a 60% hike in the rent on her three-bedroom apartment. It is not just a question of fairness; it is simply unaffordable. The £3,000 rent demand is above the couple’s total combined income. The property is also in poor shape. It is not properly registered as a house of multiple occupation, has a leaking roof, a terrace with rotten decking, leaking taps and delaminating kitchen cabinets. The landlord said they had been advised by the estate agent that the market rate was far higher than the current rent.

“We are waiting for the landlord to go to court and send the bailiffs,” Jane said. “We are constantly on edge not knowing when we will be on the street. This is the first time [me and my partner] have been living together and we have never been able to relax.”

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The search for an alternative requires engagement in “constant bidding wars”. Recently she had to put down a week’s rent as a deposit on a home just for the privilege of making the first bid. Even then it turned out the agent had offered the same arrangement to others. She is yet to receive the deposit back.

“Our parents had three-bedroom houses, cars and children [by our age] and we can’t afford any of those things,” she said. “It’s a pretty bleak situation to be in when you have 20 to 25 years of work behind you and nothing to show for it.”

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