My co-authored book, The Rent Trap, was published in March 2016 by Pluto Press. It’s about private renting and how dysfunctional it has become for the 11 million people in the UK who rent their homes from a private landlord. One of the things we explore in the book is what the Buy To Let phenomenon is doing to social relationships, and the ways in which ‘informal’ landlords rationalise what they are doing – something I wrote about for The Observer recently.

Private renting has shot up the media agenda in the last few years, but politicians of all parties are still scared to change it significantly. And while there are horror stories in the press every day about individual cases, there’s little to link them together. Even national newspapers get the facts about housing law very wrong. So we wanted to dispel the myths and show how the individual stories fit together, but we also wanted to bring new things to the conversation. One of the subjects I examine in the book is the private landlord lobby: how they’re organised, how they work and how they think.

We’ve interviewed landlords, renters, lawyers, politicians, council enforcement officers, letting agents, lobbyists and activists to tell the story. And we’ve included a handy step-by-step guide on how to take your landlord to court, written by Dirghayu Patel, because most private renters can’t afford a solicitor. Most of their money goes on rent, you see.

The book’s chapters are:

  1. The Rent Trap: The insecurity of private renting, and how having to move every year or two takes it toll on lives
  2. No Rights: An examination of how few rights renters really have, and why it’s so hard to enforce them
  3. No Money: How rents have increased far out of line with earnings, and why rent control is not to be feared
  4. No Home: A look at the relationship between homelessness and private renting, and why health is a serious issue in a privately rented home
  5. No More: A study of the landlord lobby and those who come up against it in the struggle to make renting fairer
  6. The History of Private Renting
  7. The Inequality Machine: An examination of the buy-to-let phenomenon, the effect it has on social relationships, and what ‘informal’ landlords – who don’t call themselves landlords – think about what they’re doing
  8. What Else Is There? A look at alternative escape routes from private renting, including community land trusts, co-ops and houseboats