Boris! Time to cap rents and stop retaliatory evictions

Ba London HousingFinally, some voices from the world of policy-making are beginning to recognise the need for radical reform in the private rented sector (PRS). The Greater London Authority have published a series of recommendations calling for a whole host of measures to make renting more fit for purpose.

To see what they’re calling for, click here.

We wanted to make sure these recommendations weren’t just chucked into the long grass, like so many other evidence based reports calling for change in the  PRS.  So Digs and other London renter groups wrote a letter to Boris Johnson, calling on him to implement the most important recommendations made by there report.

Here’s what we wrote…

Dear Mr. Boris Johnson,

As a collection of London private tenants groups, we urge you to implement in full the recommendations made by members of the London Assembly in their report ‘Rent reform: Making London’s private rented sector fit for purpose’.

We draw your attention to two recommendations which are particularly vital if the private rented sector (PRS) is to adapt to serve the millions of Londoners currently living in it.:

(1) Bring forward an effective mechanism through which private sector rents can be stabilised: As a matter of urgency the Mayor should take to government proposals to introduce a mechanism to stabilise rents in the short term. We encourage the Mayor to look at methods of rent control being used across Europe which are helping to deliver a more stable and affordable PRS and take action not only to stabilise rents but to bring them down.

Here in London, high rents mean low and middle earners are unable to save and are pushed into debt and often the hands of pay day lenders just to cover their rent. As people can’t pay, they are being forced from their homes and communities. Landlord evictions are up by 70%.

The Mayor argues that the problem of high rents should be solved by increasing supply. But unless this supply is targeted, we will simply see more second homes for the wealthy and ‘crash pads’ for company workers who live outside of London.

Rents also need to be reduced. We would welcome an increase in genuinely affordable housing, but the Government show little sign of delivering it. Like many other charities and campaign groups, we reject the model of ‘affordable’ housing developed by the current Government because it’s dictated by the inflated market rather than on what people can genuinely afford. In the meantime, many renters are being priced out of London, leaving gutted communities and whole areas where only wealthy people can afford to live.

(2) The Mayor should undertake, as a matter of urgency, work to review how the issue of retaliatory eviction might be addressed: This should include encouraging the government to bring forward reforms to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to remove a landlord’s right to a ‘no fault’ eviction.

When a landlord can evict through a ‘no fault eviction’, it completely undermines the limited rights private tenants do have. We speak to Londoners every day who are facing real or threatened retalitory eviction because they’ve asked for furniture to be fixed, because they’ve complained to the council about disrepair or simply because they’ve “answered back”.

Ever month, new private tenants groups are springing up in response to the capital’s housing crisis. The membership of our existing groups is growing rapidly. London Renters has formed as the new coalition of private tenants groups to coordinate this growing movement. As renters begin to get organised and stand together for decent, secure, affordable housing, the Mayor of London must listen to and respond to the needs of the 2 million Londoners living in the PRS.

We look forward to hearing how you will be taking these recommendations forward. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss these measures in greater detail and present the perspectives of London’s private renters.

Yours sincerely

London Renters:

Camden Federation of Private Tenants
Islington Private Tenants
Lambeth Renters
Haringey Housing Action

3 thoughts on “Boris! Time to cap rents and stop retaliatory evictions

  1. Your major problem is the £4000 of arrears. The rest I will take with a pinch of salt (I won’t bore you pointing out everything that’s flagged that up).

    I sympathise with you on the arrears, but this is why many landlords choose to pay for a managing agent, who will chase up arrears immediately, since once arrears exceed the deposit amount, the landlord is basically dependent on tenant goodwill to reclaim them.

    This is not due to some inherent unfairness in the law – it’s a reflection of the fact that you already have enough assets to choose to own a house and use it as income, whereas tenants do not have the assets to own any house at all. If more tenants did have spare cash and assets, then maybe you could enforce judgement for the rent arrears. But then, if they had spare cash and assets, then they wouldn’t be pushed into renting from a smaller and smaller pool, further inflating demand for basic rental properties and pushing up the rents which made landlording an attractive option to you.

    The eviction process will not take 7 or 8 months if you have your papers in order and tell the truth in your court claim (eg don’t go to court with a £6000 figure for kitchen cabinets and then be surprised if the case drags on). I understand that you would want to use section 21 (‘no fault’) rather than section 8 (grounds required) for simplicity – s.21 is very convenient for landlords – but I would be interested to know why you believe that it is the ‘only’ way to evict her. Did you base this on anecdotal evidence from landlordzone?

    And i’m also interested to know- how do you think your tenant’s receipt of housing benefit has contributed to her bad behaviour?

    You say that you’ve been good to the tenant (which i believe). But renting / landlording is like any business transaction if you don’t know the other party – you have to quickly form a judgement about whether you trust them. You can’t always get it right – some you win and some you lose. And ask yourself: When the (true) costs are added up – compared to selling the house and putting the money in a savings account, say – even with this ‘nightmare’ tenant, have you actually lost?

    Like it or not, you are running a business. This is what comes with the money you receive from landlording.
    It is normal that the law protects consumers from bad businesses (not suggesting that’s you), without necessarily protecting businesspeople from bad consumers.

    PS: It is not housing benefit tenants who the council insist on being taken to court before they take them seriously, it’s homeless applicants (ie ‘my landlord’s evicting me – i need council help to find a new place that i can afford’). Digs and Shelter also campaign against this, which is a result of DCLG cutting housing funding to the absolute bone (and beyond). This is just another example of tenants being shafted because we’re at the bottom of the tree.

  2. I visited my tenant, because of a repair issue.

    I discovered to my horror, my tenant has painted the kitchen cabinets. My tenants did not ask permission. She has totally F****D up the kitchen. It is a very bad job. The cabinets have brush marks. It is hard to describe how bad this kitchen looks now. She has totally ruined it. It would be impossible to re-let (despite claims from tenants groups, that tenants are desperate they will rent a property in ANY condition).
    (Although, some landlord may think it is morally right to rent in such a condition, given that it was a tenant who caused such damage. ). Question for Hackey Digs : It is right a new tenant has to suffer because of the actions of the previous tenant???).

    My tenant has rent arrears of £4,000. She gets housing benefit and has spent the money on holidays and other goodies. I have tried to get her to pay a little extra every month, to bring the arrears down, but she has made no effort.

    I have resisted evicting her and giving her opportunity to pay. If I do evict, she will end up in emergency accommodation such as a B&B or may get lucky and end up with a new council house.

    She disposed of my (new) furniture in the garden. If she did n’t want it, she could have let me know or donated to charity. But why dump in the garden?. Now, this furniture is ruined and I have to pay £100 for waste removal. This is an environmental crime. It all ends up in our landfills.

    Your group, wonders why landlords don’t want to take on housing benefit tenants?. Has it been a good experience for me?.

    Why don’t you advise what should I do?. Should I evict my tenant?.

    My major concern is the kitchen, I really don’t want to be accused of being a slum operation…. Even a good landlord, can become a slum landlord.

    One top of the £4,000 rent arrears, If I evict her, a kitchen re-fit will cost £6,000 (unless you think I should re-let the property in this slum condition) and the other damage she has caused to the property is £4,000. Plus, I estimate, there is another £3,500 routine maintenance (i.e. nothing to do with tenant damage). In total, I will need £13,500 to go into the property. But where am I going to get the money for this – it exceed the rental income???? Where is the protection for landlord?. Landlord are not Livin’ la Vida Loca.

    Then groups like yours complain of property dis-repairs. Exactly what do you expect from a landlord?.

    BTW, I have not increased the rent in 3.5 years (since she moved in). I have been good to her.

    The Section 21 is the only way to get her out. The eviction process takes 7 or 8 months.Legal cost is £1,000, as Council insist the landlord takes housing benefit tenants to court to get them out. (I prefer Section 21, as I don’t want to get in debate with the debate about what she has done to the kitchen).

    Groups like you and Shelter anger me. You want better deal for tenants, but you don’t want to play fair.

  3. Pingback: Let Down renters in print | Let Down

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