Assembly stands up for London's tenants

10 September 2014

Assembly Members today urged the Mayor of London to take action to protect London tenants from landlords who fail to meet private rental standards. In light of the Government’s cuts to legal aid for housing matters, the Assembly agreed that tenants across the capital should receive more protection, including,

A ban on letting agents’ fees for tenants;

The introduction of long-term three-year tenancies, after a satisfactory six month probation period;

Predictable rents based on average market rents or inflation, reviewed per year.

Andrew Dismore AM, who proposed the motion, said: “The Mayor’s London Rental Standard scheme will make little, if any, difference to the private tenants across our city who need protection from rogue landlords. There are over 800,000 private rented households in London and this accreditation scheme will only help those fortunate enough to already rent from a good landlord.” “The Mayor must support real reform of this sector. Private rented housing and lettings agents have minimal regulation. This must change otherwise people will continue to be ripped off and taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords and lettings agents.” Stephen Knight AM, who proposed an accepted amendment to the motion, said: “Many Londoners are locked out of the prospect of owning their own home and the Mayor must do more to improve their situation. Currently, the Mayor’s London Rental Standard lacks a common complaints procedure, which makes it hardly worth the paper it is written on.” “Newham and Barking & Dagenham show that boroughs can introduce landlord licensing schemes, where they see fit. The Mayor should encourage boroughs to look at these schemes, where bad practice is a particular issue.” The full text of the motions is: This Assembly considers the London Mayor’s London Rental Standard hardly worth the paper it is written on. It does little to control the worst abuses inflicted by bad landlords on their tenants and has no common procedure for dealing with complaints among the different accrediting bodies. As a voluntary document it will only ensure compliance by good landlords who have decent standards in the first place and will be ignored by bad landlords with impunity. In view of the government’s cuts to legal aid for almost all housing matters – leaving tenants with little chance of being able to enforce such rights as they do have – stronger and more easily enforceable rights are required, including through an effective London Private Sector Rental Charter. This Assembly believes London tenants need and deserve such better protection, including: • A ban on letting agents’ fees for tenants; • The introduction of long-term three-year tenancies, after a satisfactory 6 month probation period; and • Predictable rents based on average market rents or inflation, which can only be reviewed per year. This Assembly also believes that reform of Local Housing Allowance is required to make LHA at a more local level more reflective of market rents to ensure tenants are not overcharged and the public purse exploited by bad landlords who use the LHA to force up the Housing Benefit bill. In addition, this Assembly calls on the Mayor to encourage all London boroughs to establish an active programme of assessments using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), to consider introducing selective licensing schemes in areas where there is clear evidence of poor management by private landlords, and to promote a clearer understanding of the rights and responsibilities of tenants, landlords and letting agents. Notes to editors: 1. The motion was agreed 12 votes for to 7 against at a meeting of the full Assembly today. Watch the webcast. 2. Andrew Dismore AM who proposed the motion is available for interviews. Please see contact details below. 3. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor. For more details, please contact Lisa Lam, in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4067. For out-of-hours media enquiries please call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the Assembly duty press officer. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit, Greater London Authority, on 020 7983 4100.