Renting made me rant – why the private rented sector is so close to my heart

Written by Nazia Azad-Warren

Last week, Tai Pawb said goodbye to Nazia Azad-Warren, our Open Doors Project Manager.

Over the past two years, Nazia has worked tirelessly with tenants, landlords and partner organisations to promote equality and diversity in the private rented sector (PRS). Nazia made a fantastic contribution to Tai Pawb’s work and she will be sorely missed by all her colleagues.

We wish her all the best in the new and exciting role she has secured. Her passion for change, enthusiasm and drive are second-to-none and stand her in good stead for her future endeavours.

Nazia took the opportunity to write a final blog post, reliving her experiences in the private rented sector and why she feels so passionate about equality and justice.

Renting made me rant – why the private rented sector is so close to my heart

I read somewhere that the consequences of poor, unstable and inadequate housing causes more damage to people than good quality housing can ever do to fix it. This has certainly been true of my own experiences.

Not many people know that as a teenager, I had to help my parents pack our belongings and enter in to the murky world of sofa surfing. My family and I had lost our home and it was a scary time, one that has scarred me for life. Living out of black bin bags and at the mercy of my (thankfully very supportive) family has shaped my fears around housing, and for a long time I felt like I had failed. That we as a family had failed. Even after being rehoused, the trauma lived on.

I buried these emotions deep within, so much so that I didn’t even identify housing as a sector that I could develop a career in post-university. Then two years ago, I came across a job advert from Tai Pawb for a brand new project designed to reduce discrimination in the private rented sector and despite not having had any previous housing experience, I just knew it was something I had to go for.

Being a second generation British – Bangladeshi woman living in Wales does not make me unique – there are actually quite a few of us! However what it does is make me acutely aware of is how unequal our society is – especially when it comes to housing. When I was younger, I am ashamed to say that I blamed my father for what had happened to us but as I have grown up, I know that there were (and still are) wider systemic factors at play.

One of the things that I think about often is around why we didn’t reach out for support. Perhaps if services were focused on early intervention, we would not have had to experience the trauma that we had. Perhaps if services understood how to work with minority groups, instead of us seeing us as an ‘other’, my parents would have been able to reach out and ask for support before we hit crisis point.

Although what happened to my family was over a decade ago, working for the Open Doors project has opened to my eyes to how unsafe the private rented sector still is for tenants on the whole and it frightens me. Arguably, this is because the structure of the private rented sector in the UK is not designed to house a diverse range of people as a long term housing solution. The power imbalance between landlord and tenant is vast and the inability of benefit claimants in being able to access mainstream private rented housing is obscene.

I do appreciate that there are a number of good landlords out there who want to do good by their tenants and have gone above and beyond, but in my experience, this has been rare. Even if the relationship is simply transactional, issues of repairs and basic obligations not being met is fairly mainstream.

It seems to me, that the more vulnerable you are or are perceived to be, the worse your experience will be. I have come across tenants who have had to live without basic facilities; in one particular case, a tenant had not had heating in the property for over three years. This particular tenant had experience of rough sleeping and after a year of asking his landlord, he just gave up. I think this is what is happening in the PRS, people are just giving up.

I know of another tenant who lived in a property in an exceptionally bad state. Her children had developed a series of rashes on their bodies and were suffering considerably. After repeated requests for the letting agent to act, the tenant suddenly stopped her complaints. Why had she stopped? – because the letting agent had threatened to go to Social Services and claim that the marks on her children were as a result of her beating them.

Blood-boiling stuff, right?

Our over reliance on the private rented sector inevitably means that we are placing people in vulnerable circumstances in a tenure that does not want them. Barriers such as ‘No DSS’, ‘no fault’ evictions and even something as insidious as ‘sex for rent’ are all contributing to the sector being unsafe for scores of households in Wales. Until tenants are safe from mistreatment, discrimination and even criminal behaviour, my efforts will not stop.

So although I have said goodbye to my incredible colleagues at Tai Pawb, my work to improve the private rented sector has only just started!

Verified by MonsterInsights