The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will develop a new blueprint for stabilising or controlling private rents in the capital, as part of his ongoing work to help London’s 2.4m renters.
Khan has long argued that national Government should radically overhaul the laws for private renters which he believes are unfit for purpose, but has no powers to implement rent control in London himself. The Mayor’s announcement comes as new polling carried out by City Hall and YouGov revealed strong support for rent controls in the capital, with over two-thirds of Londoners surveyed in favour of the Government capping the amount that landlords can charge people renting their property.
Between 2005 and 2016 average private rents in London rose by 38 per cent, and the average private rent for a one-bedroom home in London is now more than the average for a three-bedroom home in every other English region. Far more Londoners are also now renting, with 27 per cent renting privately in 2017, compared to only 15 per cent in 2000.
Sadiq has invited Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, to work with his Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray to develop proposals for rent stabilisation or control laws that would help make private sector rents genuinely affordable to more Londoners, whilst at the same time protecting new supply and investment. Karen has significant legislative experience in developing laws to strengthen the rights of renters, and last year succeeded in progressing the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill from a ‘private members bill’ into law as Government-backed legislation.
Rent control and stabilisation can take many forms, but most major cities in Europe and North America have some limits on rents in the private sector. For instance, in Berlin, rents are controlled both within and between tenancies.
In some New York City apartments, rents are capped by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board, and others have their rent ‘stabilised’ or reset between tenancies. Scotland has recently introduced new laws that allow councils to apply to implement ‘rent pressure zones’, where rent increases are capped at no higher than inflation. By comparison, London and the rest of England and Wales have a private rental sector characterised by very weak protections for renters.
This work will complement proposals Sadiq has been developing on how tenancy laws could be modernised. He wants to see tenancies reformed by ending Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, in which the tenant is evicted without reason, and introducing a right for renters to open-ended tenancies, whilst taking steps to ensure landlords can regain possession when they have a legitimate reason. Greater security for tenants is essential as growing numbers of families and older people rent long term in London.
Once these proposals around rent stabilisation and control are complete, if it is the case that Mayor doesn’t have the requisite powers, he will campaign and lobby for them – and also for his proposed changes to tenancy laws – to be implemented by national Government.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said, “London is in the middle of a desperate housing crisis that has been generations in the making. At City Hall we are doing everything in our power to tackle it, including building record numbers of new social homes, but I have long been frustrated by my lack of powers to help private renters.
“Our Rogue Landlord Checker, which has now been checked more than 76,000 times, is making a real difference – but the truth is that the laws for private renters are simply not fit for purpose.
“The arguments for rent control are overwhelming, and Londoners overwhelmingly want it to happen. I am delighted Karen Buck MP has agreed to work with my deputy Mayor for Housing on proposals for new laws that would help make private rents more affordable. It’s vital that the Government acts to improve the quality of millions of lives, now and in the future.”
The Mayor’s Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker, the first of its kind in the country – launched just over a year ago. The free online tool allows Londoners to check if the landlord or letting agent of a rental property has been convicted of any housing offences. All London boroughs who have relevant records to add have now done so, making this a complete record of all recent successful prosecutions and fines in London.
Compared with the Mayor’s Checker, the Government database contains no data at present and is only accessible to local authorities.
Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, said: “London’s private renters are amongst the worst affected by the housing crisis in the capital, and the laws to protect them are woefully out of date. We need an approach to rent stabilisation and control that works in London, and I am very pleased to be working with Sadiq’s team to develop a blueprint for what Government should do. Once we have set out these proposals, we will argue the case that Ministers must support London’s private renters by putting our plans into action.”
Hannah Slater, Policy Manager at Generation Rent said, “Londoners are paying some of the highest rents in the world and many are struggling to keep a roof over their head in the area they grew up in or close enough to where they work.
“Unaffordable rent increases force people into stressful moves away from neighbourhoods where they have roots, thereby eroding London’s communities. Renters need stability in our homes that can only come from certainty over what rent we pay – but we need to afford a home in the first place. We applaud the Mayor’s commitment to explore how rent controls can work to provide Londoners with stable and affordable homes.”