Home Legislation & Tax Mayor calls for action to prevent evictions as reports of rogue landlords and agents rise

Mayor calls for action to prevent evictions as reports of rogue landlords and agents rise

by Mark Fitt Political Journalist
7th Jan 21 11:49 am

The Mayor of London has demanded that the government takes urgent action to protect renters from eviction and homelessness as new statistics show the number of Londoners reporting concerns about their landlord or letting agent more than doubled during the pandemic.

One in five complainants is now reporting an unfair eviction, latest City Hall stats show.

While many landlords have supported tenants throughout the pandemic, the latest stats from the mayor’s ‘report a rogue landlord or agent’ online tool demonstrate the way some unscrupulous landlords have taken advantage of the pandemic, with more than 1,400 complaints between march and December last year.

The ‘Report a Rogue’ tool has seen a spike in complaints since the first lockdown restrictions were put in place in March last year despite the Government banning court eviction proceedings until September 2020, followed by ministers ordering bailiffs not to enforce evictions.

Given the lack of action to support renters properly, the Mayor is once again calling on ministers to prevent evictions from being carried out once the pause on evictions comes to an end on 11 January.

The additional time should be used to put in place a support package to prevent a possible huge increase in evictions and homelessness caused by an increasing build-up of rent arrears.

This includes:

  • providing grants to support renters to clear rent arrears and remain in their homes;
  • giving the Mayor powers to implement a two-year rent freeze in London as an emergency measure as long as the economic impact of COVID continues.
  • increasing local housing allowance rates to cover the cost of average market rents and scrap the benefit cap
  • delivering on the commitment to end Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and allow judges discretion to refuse a possession claim where arrears have accrued due to the ongoing impacts of Covid-19, while also working with the Mayor to introduce the other aspects of his London Model of tenancy reform

The Mayor is calling on the Government to give private tenants the same protection as commercial tenants who before Christmas benefited from an extension of a ban on evictions until the end of March 2021.

Landlord and tenant organisations alike are united in calling for more Government support for renters, with the National Residential Landlords Association recently publishing new research demonstrating that an increase in rent arrears has built up since the start of the pandemic and calling on ministers to provide an enhanced financial package for renters.

Despite having no formal powers over the private rented sector, the Mayor is determined to advocate for London’s 2.6 million private renters. In November last year Sadiq launched his online Property Licence Checker to help Londoners discover if their landlord has properly licensed their home. The Checker was accessed more than 40,000 times in its first four weeks online, demonstrating the concern many renters have about the standard of their property and their relationship with their landlord.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:  “These latest figures show the huge pressure on renters during the pandemic. It is now time for the Government finally to take the needs of private renters seriously and help those struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

“There is now clear consensus from organisations representing both renters and landlords that Government needs to take bold action to stop evictions as we enter another national lockdown.

“With the evictions ban ending next week, Ministers need to take urgent action to prevent people being evicted from their homes, putting in place a proper financial support package for those who have fallen into arrears through no fault of their own. The Government must finally act on their promise to scrap ‘no fault’ evictions and give Mayors like me the powers to freeze rents until we have recovered from the huge economic impact of the pandemic.”

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Deputy Chair of London Councils and Executive member for Housing and Planning, said: “Given that around 2.7 million Londoners are tenants in the private rented sector, is it important that private landlords in the capital are responsible and ethical.

“A third national lockdown will pile even more pressure on vulnerable renters who might have lost their jobs or are facing health issues. Being unfairly evicted in the middle of a surging pandemic is just not right. Renters need more protection so they are in the best possible position to get back on their feet when the economy reopens.

“Boroughs are committed to taking robust action against any rogue landlords exploiting their tenants, and we’ll continue to call for stronger enforcement powers and resources for our frontline teams.”

Ben Reeve-Lewis, Strategic Case Manager at Lambeth-based charity Safer Renting, said: “Working across seven London boroughs, Safer Renting has seen a massive increase in illegal eviction since the start of Lockdown. Many landlords are simply ignoring government advice to be reasonable and talk to their tenants.

“In the third quarter of 2020, Safer Renting’s work on illegal eviction had become so pressing, we had to take on more caseworkers to cope.

“Courts are incapable of dealing with the urgent need of renters seeking protection through inunctions in cases of illegal eviction, even if they can find a legal aid lawyer. Many illegally evicted people have English as a second language and struggle to even understand court proceedings.”

Dan Wilson Craw, Deputy Director, Generation Rent said: “One in four private rented homes are not of a decent standard, and lockdown meant that renters in these properties could not escape mouldy and unsafe conditions.

“It became impossible to ignore disrepair during this time so it’s no surprise that complaints increased. The ban on evictions meant that some landlords have turned to criminal methods to force tenants out.

“With restrictions still in place it has never been more important for the Police and local government to protect renters from illegal eviction.”

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