Private renters

Meeting: 
MQT on 2016-10-19
Session date: 
October 19, 2016
Reference: 
2016/3630
Question By: 
Sian Berry
Organisation: 
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

How will you ensure that the concerns of private renters in London are addressed by your housing policies?

Answer

Answer for Private renters

Answer for Private renters

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I thank you for your question?  I know you are personally interested in this matter.

 

We know that more and more Londoners are finding housing harder and harder to afford and, for those Londoners who rent privately, that is particularly the case.  Over the last eight years, rents have increased by nearly three times average earnings, meaning that even Londoners on very decent incomes are struggling to pay their rent, never mind save for deposits.

 

We need to be building thousands of new and affordable homes every year to help Londoners who are renting privately.  We also need to be honest that making housing more affordable is not going to happen overnight.  My team has been working with councils, housing associations, developers, investors and Londoners themselves to get started on this goal.  We need to build homes of every type and we need to make sure as many of them as possible are affordable.

 

That is why we are aiming to publish new planning rules in the autumn to make sure new developments include a decent proportion of affordable housing.  Those affordable homes will include ones for shared ownership to help private renters buy their first home and new homes for a London Living Rent, a rent based on a third of the average household income to help give private renters a rent that they can afford and that enables them to save for a deposit should they wish to do so.

 

Beyond concerns about affordability, the lack of security for private renters can also make life difficult for many tenants, especially the growing number of households with children living in rented homes.  Furthermore, although most landlords offer their tenants a good service, a minority of landlords are letting their tenants down with poor-quality service and conditions.

 

My predecessor launched a Landlord Accreditation Scheme, saying that he wanted to do something about poor standards.  Despite a target of accrediting 100,000 landlords by 2016, fewer than 2,000 new landlords were in fact accredited through it.

 

In contrast, I want to develop well thought through and meaningful approaches that will actually help renters.  That is why my team is developing plans to name-and-shame rogue landlords and why we are supporting local authorities to crack down on bad landlords through properly enforced landlord licensing schemes.

 

Many boroughs are already doing great work in this area and I will support their efforts when they do so.  For example, I have recently written a letter in support of Redbridge Council’s application for a licensing scheme to tackle criminal landlord behaviour in key areas within the borough.  Their scheme needs Government signoff and I believe that the Government should support boroughs like Redbridge when their schemes are well-evidenced, light-touch and easy for good landlords to register for.

 

Although my powers are limited in the private rented sector (PRS), I will continue to work with councils to improve conditions in the sector, to make the case to the Government for London to have greater powers and to work with all partners across the capital to build new and affordable homes to rent and buy.

 

Sian Berry AM:  Thank you for that answer.  That is quite a lot of work that you are doing.  I am very concerned about private renting and I asked private renters to tell me their stories and their concerns in my recent survey.  Over 90% of those who answered me had experienced not one but four or more serious problems in the past three years.  A huge majority of them want better information about their rights and a way of looking up bad landlords and letting agents.

 

I am pleased to see that you still have plans in train - you mentioned them to me briefly at the last Mayor’s Question Time - for a “database of rogue landlords”, as you called it.  Will this include letting agents who break the rules and will you commit to collating the information that is in the borough schemes and from other sources and putting it online in an accessible way as soon as possible?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  That is what we are working on: a portal to do just that and we are taking advice.  There are issues around data protection stuff and there are issues around defamation as well, but we are exploring all of those difficult things.  That is the ambition.

 

Sian Berry AM:  Do you have a timetable for when that will be launched?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I asked that very question and I was told the answer, which I will share with you.  I will find it shortly, I promise.

 

Sian Berry AM:  The clock is on me.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I can drop you a line if that helps, Sian, but I did ask that question and I do have an answer as to timelines.

 

Sian Berry AM:  Maybe I can move on to the question of costs, which you also touched upon.  The London Living Rent and the new London Plan do bode quite well for new homes but, as you touched upon, under your predecessor, the previous Mayor, the cost of rents in existing homes went up absolutely hugely.  The average rent went up from £1,190 a month in 2011 to £1,452 a month this May [2016].

 

What plans do you have to make sure private renters in homes that have already been built will not face continued high increased rent costs over the course of your mayoralty?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have no control over the rents that private landlords charge already.  I am not sure if you are suggesting retrospective rent control powers, but those powers do not exist.

 

What we can do is try to stabilise rents in new properties.  The good news is that many local authorities and others are building PRS homes.  They are good landlords.  They give longer-term tenancies between three and five years and, during those tenancies, the rent goes up only by inflation.  There are examples London of PRS homes being built by local authorities and by private developers but, as far as those who rent from private landlords are concerned, as you will be aware, we have no powers to get involved in that.

 

Sian Berry AM:  I am disappointed to hear that you will not be trying to get further powers in this.  Your London Living Rent will work.  It will not do any harm.  Even if you manage 50,000 homes out of the 200,000 that you plan to build during your mayoralty, it will help only 5% of those in the current PRS sector.  What I am hearing is that you are not offering anything on costs to the other 95% of us living in homes that already exist.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Look, it is really easy to be a megaphone politician with no influence, but the Government was elected and I respect the fact that it was elected on a manifesto different to mine in 2015.  I was elected on a manifesto different to theirs in 2016.  We have to come up with a deal.  The reality is that, in the real world, what I would want to do is not necessarily the same as what the Government wants to do and so we have to come up with a compromise.

 

We are having good discussions with the Government in relation to a package for London with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Treasury.  Once we have a decision I will be happy to announce that, but I am realistic.  This Government is not going to give the Mayor of London powers over rent control or rent stabilisation for those properties already in the private market.  This Government is not going to ban a letting agency in London as they do in Scotland in relation to the tenancy fees it can charge.  We have to be realistic in relation to what is achievable.  I want the best deal possible for Londoners and I intend to do that.

 

Sian Berry AM:  There are four years of your mayoralty, almost, to go and I really hope that this will not be the end of your efforts on this.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  At least four years.

 

Sian Berry AM:  Moving on to helping renters to help themselves, really significantly, six out of ten renters told me that to join an independent London-wide renters' organisation, they would be prepared to pay a small fee.  This is something that you currently have the powers to do.  It is an organisation that could become self-sustaining over time.

 

Would you consider providing perhaps start-up funds or perhaps practical support such as office space for an organisation like this?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I looked into some of the plans that people have considered for, for example, a renters’ union and I looked at the sort of things that a renters’ union would do: provide assistance and support to individual renters, stabilise and support local groups of private renters and establish a database that would include rogue landlords.

 

While I support many of the aims, I am not convinced that we should prioritise resources for setting up a new structure since many of the aims are done by others.  Shelter, for instance, provides advice services.  Generation Rent is organising a local renters’ group.  Here at City Hall, my team is developing options for a database of rogue landlords.  Unless I am persuaded that there is something to supplement, I am unclear what this money would go towards doing that is additional to what Shelter, Generation Rent and we are going to be doing.

 

Sian Berry AM:  I am out of time, Mr Mayor, but I will just say that I hope you will agree to meet with some of these groups and think about how you might help them to expand, but I will leave it there, Chairman.  Thanks.

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you very much.