We need real action to ensure fair treatment for London’s private renters

Boris Johnson’s soft touch approach to regulation leaves London’s renters at the mercy of landlords.

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Boris Johnson’s soft touch approach to regulation leaves London’s renters at the mercy of landlords

Six months ago Boris Johnson launched his flagship London Rental Standard. The idea behind it was to set minimum standards for landlords and letting agents.

The problem is that the scheme is useless as a means of delivering these standards and protecting tenants.

In practice, the London Rental Standard was yet another announcement of ‘voluntary’ measures, designed by landlords and letting agents, which they can ultimately decide not to sign up to anyway.

As a media announcement it worked well for the mayor, but given the scale of the problems facing London’s private rented sector, a system based on voluntary self-regulation is entirely inadequate for protecting tenants. 

But even on the mayor’s own terms the scheme is failing. He has lofty ambitions to have 100,000 London landlords voluntarily signed up by 2016 – roughly a third of all landlords in London.

So far he’s only managed to sign up 13,499 landlords according to the most recent City Hall figures.

In fact the number of landlords signed up has increased by just 2,892 since the 2012 mayoral election.

Over the same period conditions for the capital’s renters have dramatically deteriorated.

Since 2011 private sector rents have increased by 21 per cent and recent estimates found that 39 per cent of private rented sector tenants now live in poverty – a larger share than in either the social or owner-occupying tenures.

Housing organisation Shelter has also reported a 47 per cent increase in private sector tenant complaints in London since 2008 (to 18,700 a year), illustrating the demand for increased support for tenants.

Last week’s decision by Philip Davies MP and Christopher Chope MP to torpedo a bill to outlaw revenge evictions shows the contempt some politicians have towards increased rights for renters.

The bill would have been a small step, but it was an opportunity for parliament to signal a change of direction by outlawing revenge evictions and starting the long overdue process of empowering the millions of people who rent across the UK.

With four-in-ten private sector renters living in poverty, rents rising and complaints soaring, the mayor and government’s soft touch approach does little to help the majority of renters.

Without proper statutory protection, many renters are left at the mercy of their landlords.

Instead of toothless voluntary schemes like the London Rental Standard we need to see real action to ensure decent standards and fair treatment for a 21st century private rented sector.

Tenants need statutory protections. Outlawing revenge evictions would have been a start, but we need to go much further, including by introducing longer tenancies with predictable rent rises as an absolute minimum.

Whilst most landlords treat their tenants properly, cases like that of the New Era estate in Hackney, where residents face rents tripling overnight, make it clear that the current system of voluntary regulation just isn’t working.

Tom Copley is a Labour Londonwide Assembly member, and the London Assembly Labour Group Housing spokesperson. Follow him on Twitter

5 Responses to “We need real action to ensure fair treatment for London’s private renters”

  1. JoeDM

    Of course the real cause of the housing shortage and the pressure on rents is the uncontrolled increase in immigration over the past decade or so.

  2. sarntcrip

    For the record, the following list are the policies Labour have announced for 2015 so far. Under absolutely no definition could this list be thought of as right wing. None. Is it perfect? Of course not. Do I wish they would go further? Of course I do. Will they stick to every one if they win in 2015? None of us can possibly know. Sadly, you still can’t get crystal balls on Amazon.

    But the list represents the progressive Labour party we’ve had for decades. Doubt them, push them, hold them to account, but if you want the Tories out and you live in a marginal seat, voting for anyone but Labour will get you exactly what you most fear. 5 more years of Cameron.

    -An £8 minimum wage

    -Fight for a living wage

    -Repeal Health and Social Care act

    -Repeal the Gagging law

    -Repeal the bedroom tax.

    -An end to inaccessible WCA centres

    -200,000 new homes pa by 2020

    -A mansion tax

    -A freeze on energy bills

    -Guaranteed jobs or training for young people out of work for a year or longer

    -A clampdown on exploitative landlords & more stable, secure rental contracts

    -25 hours of free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds

    -A clampdown on exploitative zero-hours contracts.

    -Integration of health and social care

    -Maximum 48 hour wait to see a GP

    -Mental health training for all NHS staff

    -A reformed WCA overseen by sick and disabled people

    -Penalties for every mistake Maximus make

    -Reverse the 45p tax rate back to 50p

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah yes, there hasn’t been 34 years of insufficient house building, nope, you keep frantically blaming the Other. For everything. As usual.

    This article’s not even about that, you just are attacking. As usual.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Why should the assumption be that rents rise, without improvements to the house, for instance? Certainly not above the prefered measure of inflation. i.e. CPI (that it doesn’t count housing is NOT renter’s issue!)

    How about some decent policy like rent caps, based on area and energy efficiency, and tied strongly to housing benefit rates? (And for tax on empty brownfield land, and massive council house building, and…I know you can’t do it all, but you can call for it!)

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re ignoring their rightward moves there.

    And i.e. The £8 minimum wage “promise” as structured is a CAP on it at £8 in 2020.

    The “stable contracts” is a disaster in the same way, with a large rise in rents up-front basically guaranteed. Neither have they promised the proper amounts of cash needed to merge social and healthcare, etc.

    (Neither do I agree with their plans for forced labour, which will cap wages, or their plans for workfare, or…)

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