The Greater London Assembly has been urged to back more regulation for the private rented sector, including measures to control rents and ensure longer, more secure standard tenancies to better protect the millions of private tenants living in the capital.
With an estimated one in four Londoners now renting privately and record-breaking rents affecting families and people on low incomes, a coalition of private tenant groups is calling for a series of measures to improve the sector.
The coalition is urging the GLA to follow the lead of Scotland by ending “bogus and opportunistic” letting agent fees which are typically levied on top of deposits.
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, recently set out plans for a “voluntary and transparent” London rental standard to be launched in 2013. However, he is not backing compulsory regulations and is fiercely opposed to rent controls, arguing they would lead to less investment in the sector.
The London Assembly’s Housing and Regeneration Committee has been running a review of the reforms needed to raise the quality of London’s private rented sector, which comprises around 850,000 homes and continues to grow.
The inquiry has been considering how the sector is also increasingly, and controversially used to house homeless people, low-income families and other vulnerable households who would previously have lived in social housing, without the standards or security of that tenure, and at a cost of around £400m a year to the public purse.
Heather Kennedy of Digs (Hackney Renters Group) said: “At the beginning of 2009, Boris Johnson pledged to end rough sleeping in the capital before the year was out. Instead, what do we have? We have rough sleeping up by 43 % since last year, with the end of a tenancy in the private rented sector being one of the most common reasons cited. Successive years of policy making have placed the agenda of landlords and letting agents over the needs of private tenants and this has to stop.”
The recent census revealed in stark detail how a combination of spiralling house prices, a rising population, a lack of housebuilding plus easy credit and tax advantages for landlords is condemning the younger generation to rent forever rather than buy a home.
In London’s Hackney, where average house prices are now £426,000, the number who rent privately (28,000 households) far exceeds the number buying homes (16,000) in a complete reversal to the last census.
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