Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

Renters are at the mercy of landlords after new Shelter figures revealed that 1 in 22 private renters in Waltham Forest; 1 in 33 private renters in Hackney; and 1 in 49 private renters in Islington face eviction each year. This comes six months after Boris Johnson launched his voluntary London Rental Standard (LRS) which, despite aiming to get 100,000 of London’s 300,000 landlords signed up to better protections for tenants, has only 13,499 landlords on board according to the most recent City Hall figures.

The new research shows that in total 2,249 privately renting households in Hackney; 2,066 in Waltham Forest and 1,307 in Islington faced claims of eviction last year. This means 1 in 33 households facing eviction in Hackney; 1 in 22 in Waltham Forest and 1 in 49 in Islington. Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington have the 5th, 6th and 25th highest eviction rate in the England, respectively.

The report from housing charity Shelter found that the high cost and volatile nature of the London house rental market meant that “it can take just one thing, like losing your job or falling ill, to put your home at risk.” Since 2011 private sector rents in London have soared by 21% and recent estimates found that 39% of private rented sector tenants now live in poverty – a larger share than in either the social or owner-occupying tenures.

The number of people facing dramatic rent rises and evictions showed that the capitals rental market wasn’t working for many Londoners. The Mayor of London’s voluntary approach to landlord regulation is not working and I call for stronger statutory protection for private renters.

The fact that up to 1 in 22 renters across my constituency have faced eviction in the last year shows how challenging it can be to rent in the capital. Boris Johnson pledged to get 100,000 landlords signed up to his minimum standards scheme yet to date only 13,500 landlords have joined.

With 40% of private sector renters living in poverty, rents rising and complaints soaring, Boris’s soft touch approach does little to help the majority of London’s renters. Without proper statutory protection, many renters are left at the mercy of landlords.

Instead of another empty voluntary initiative we need to see real action to ensure decent standards and fair treatment in the private rented sector. Things like longer tenancies and caps on rent increases would make a real difference to the people who call Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest their home.

Whilst most landlords treat their tenants properly these figures suggest that renters have very little protections and too easily face the threat of eviction.

Notes

The latest Shelter report, Repossession and Eviction Hotspots, including borough by borough breakdowns is available here.

The numbers of accredited landlords are available on the GLA’s London Rental Standard web page.

The London Poverty Profile 2013 (p.7) found that 39% of private renters now live in poverty.

The Valuation Office Agency states that between June 2011 and June 2014 private rents in London rose 21%

Shelter reports a 47 per cent increase in private sector tenant complaints in London in the last five years (to 18,700) (p20)

New research on private sector rent levels shows that, at the current rate of rent inflation, average London rents will be £1,625 a month by April 2016. The average figures for all dwellings in Islington will be £1,815.29 per month, in Hackney will be £1,688.89 and in Waltham Forest will be £1,079.76. The forecasts, compiled by Tom Copley AM, are based on an average of rent rises between October 2011 and October 2013 as recorded by the Valuation Office Agency. For outer London average rents will rise to £1,350, and for inner London average rents will rise to £1,805.

The analysis shows that, should the current level of rent inflation continue, high rents will become a significant problem in outer-London, where rents have tended to be lower than inner London (see map below). London rents are forecast to rise at five times the England average.

I’m backing calls for the Mayor to launch an investigation into unsustainable rent increases and establish proposals for a mechanism to stabilise rents in London. The current rate of rent inflation is sucking demand out of the economy, and making London ever more unaffordable for people who work in the capital, which could impact on London’s economic growth.

These figures are a shocking indication of what residents in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest and across our city can expect to pay in rent by the end of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty. The current rate of rent inflation is making London unaffordable for people who live here, even those on ‘good’ salaries. With home-ownership an ever distant dream for many, it is time Boris Johnson used his position and launched an investigation into unsustainable rent rises and possible mechanisms for tackling them. Otherwise, we will see a devastating hollowing out of our great city, which will simply end up becoming the playground of the rich.

Britain has one of the least-regulated private rented markets in Europe. When more and more people have no choice but to rent we have to ensure that renting is a stable option, particularly for the growing number of families who live in rented accommodation. There are good landlords who do right by their tenants, but there are an increasing number who do not. So far the Mayor has only adopted trivial voluntary schemes to improve standards, it is time he treated this issue with the seriousness it deserves. There are over 800,000 private rented households in London. If he doesn’t act these people will continue to be squeezed, quality of life will decline and London’s economy will be held back.

It is even more pressing given the Mayor’s recent actions to redefine the criteria for affordable housing, which now sits at up to 80% of the market value. If Boris thinks that £1,452.23 per month, £1,351.11 per month and £863.80 per month (i.e. 80% of the predicted average market value come 2016) – for Islington, Hackney and Waltham Forest, respectively – is ‘affordable’, then he really is out of touch with the reality that millions of Londoners live every day. And, when we look at the Mayor’s decision to call in the Mount Pleasant planning application in Islington, which has a pitiful 12% of the proposed housing units classified as affordable, it’s clear that something needs to be done immediately to investigate what can be done to stop the renting crisis we face across London.

Projected private rent increases in April 2016, (darker shade of red indicates higher increase):

Rent Rise by 2016