Boris’ Johnson’s poor planning has let rogue landlords off the hook

The current rental standard offers Londoners very little protection


The original purpose of the London Rental Standard (LRS) – to drive up standards in the private rented sector – is commendable. But by insisting that the standard be voluntary, Boris Johnson has essentially left London’s private rental sector to self-regulate, with remarkably little effect.

They’re not even signing up. As a result, little has been done to offer tenants any protection or to resolve any of the problems in London’s private rented sector.

The LRS was re-launched from a previous failed scheme in May 2014 to much fanfare. It was accompanied by Boris Johnson’s bold promise to accredit ‘100,000 landlords’ by May 2016.

An expensive publicity campaign followed, explaining that the LRS would bring together the seven existing landlord accreditation schemes in the capital under one overarching scheme.

At the time of the launch 13,512 landlords were already signed up to one of the seven accreditations. Therefore the news this week that since its launch less than a thousand extra landlords have chosen to sign up is more than a little troubling.

At this rate it would take Boris 103 years to deliver his promise, yet he’s committed to doing it in just one more. Considering that the numbers of Londoners privately renting will eclipse home ownership by 2027, this is simply not good enough.

Boris is responding to a desperately serious housing crisis with hype and hot air.

Reforming the private rented sector is a significant challenge for London. Tenants deserve peace of mind wherever they live. There are many good landlords, but there are far too many bad ones.

At the core of the scheme’s problems is that it’s voluntary. Why would a bad landlord sign up to it?

Londoners who rent deserve to be free from the damaging effects of rogue landlords. Unaccountable and sudden rent increases, poor property maintenance and no fault evictions are all circumstances in which an increasing number of Londoners find themselves. The current voluntary LRS offers these tenants very little protection and allows bad landlords to continue their mistreatment.

Poor regulation has real and drastic effects on peoples’ lives. I recently heard about a local family renting from a landlord whose son’s asthma was being made worse by the damp and mouldy walls in their flat. The landlord simply refused to address the problem.

I’ve heard about too many cracked windows, stained ceilings and water leaks. These problems are increasingly being left up to tenants to fix, despite their finances already being squeezed by increasing rents.

A rental standard scheme could provide the security London private renters deserve, but it needs to be one that is done properly. A good start would be a mandatory register of landlords and letting agents.

Nicky Gavron is a member of the London Assembly and a former deputy mayor of London

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