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What’s happening in exempt accommodation – and what can we do about it?

Sarah Rowe, Senior Policy Officer

Everyone should have a safe home that meets their needs. That’s what Crisis member Richard expected when he turned to privately-run supported ‘exempt’ accommodation, when he had nowhere else to go.

He was told that the housing provider would help him to look for more permanent accommodation, and support staff would be in touch with him regularly.

“But there was no support at all. They only came out to the house to collect the service charge money. They were useless,” Richard says.

‘Exempt’ accommodation is supposed to provide housing for people with support needs, such as people who have been homeless, domestic abuse survivors and prison leavers.

Due to the added support people living in supported housing require, it's exempt from limits on housing benefit that restrict how much money people can receive to pay their rent.

It should be a haven that offers support to help people take the next step in their lives towards more permanent and settled accommodation. And often it is.

While there are good providers who are working well to support residents, weak regulation and a lack of housing has allowed some rogue landlords to exploit the system for profit, leaving people trapped in unsafe, squalid accommodation without the support they need.

The house Richard lived in was in poor repair and some of the other residents were causing disturbances.

“It had a bad impact on my mental health. I was even crying myself to sleep at night – it was that bad,” he says.

Richard’s story is typical of the kinds of experiences of exempt accommodation we have heard through our frontline services. Other residents have told us their rooms were infested with mice and mold, and tenants have been exposed to bullying and threats when they’ve tried to speak out.

No one should be forced to live like this.

But how did we get here, and what can we do about it?

Over the last few years, exploitative landlords have multiplied due to a shortage of decent quality, affordable homes for people who need extra help to leave homelessness behind, coupled with weak regulation and a lack of oversight.

The true number of people trapped in bad quality housing like this is unknown, but it probably already runs to the tens of thousands and appears to be continuing to grow.

The result is millions of pounds of public money being handed to rogue landlords for housing people in horrendous conditions without the support they need.

Enough is enough. That’s why our campaign is calling on the Government to step in and Regulate the Rogues

What is the solution?

The scale of this issue demands a joined-up and urgent response from the government.

In March 2022 the then Government Minister Eddie Hughes said that the Government would act 'when parliamentary time allows'.

Thankfully we now have an opportunity for Government to turn that commitment into action - by supporting Bob Blackman's Private Member's Bill, which will come before MPs in November.

The Bill aims to better regulate this type of accommodation so that rogue landlords can no longer operate, while minimsing the impact of regulation on effective providers. It will give councils powers to license providers of exempt accommodation and enable them to enforce standards.

But the Bill faces several hurdles along the way, and it’s not certain it will succeed. We need to build support for these new laws so that the Government backs the Bill.

Every day that this scandal is allowed to persist, people are trapped in squalid housing without the support they need to thrive and rebuild their lives – and face a return to homelessness as a result.

Join us by signing our open letter to the Secretary of State, calling on him to back new laws to regulate the market and stop poor practice to ensure people aren’t left living in dangerous and squalid conditions without the support they need.

Richard says: “Everybody has the right to a good, decent house and to be safe. They need to sort out these types of properties and make sure everything is done properly. Don’t say you’re going to help people and then do nothing - it’s not fair.”

Help us make this a reality – sign the open letter now.

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