London’s private rented sector is booming, with monthly rents at a record high. But with sub-standard conditions and poor treatment of tenants blighting some parts of the sector, what reforms are needed to ensure all Londoners living in private rentals get a fair deal?
The London Assembly Housing and Regeneration Committee is conducting a comprehensive investigation aimed at identifying improvements to the private rented sector  - and pushing the Mayor to deliver them through his new Homes for London agency.
Building on a previous investigation into physical conditions, Committee Members will examine ways to make the private rented sector more affordable and secure, and with better standards – particularly for families and vulnerable people.
London’s private rented sector is already an important element of the capital’s housing mix, and is forecast to keep growing. Made up of around 850,000 homes, it now houses one in four Londoners, many of whom choose the flexibility renting privately provides.
However, the private rented sector is also increasingly used to house homeless people, low-income families and other vulnerable households who would previously have lived in social housing - without the standards or security of that tenure.
London’s private landlords currently pocket more than £400 million of public money a year from local authority placements – yet are not necessarily providing decent housing in exchange for it.
Chair of the Housing and Regeneration Committee, Len Duvall AM, said:
“The private rented sector’s role in housing Londoners has grown and evolved dramatically in a relatively short space of time, so it’s time to look at whether the current system is actually working, and where new solutions are needed.
“While there are a lot of good landlords out there, we know there are also some who are quite comfortable with charging exorbitant rents to house families with children in one run-down room. This is not right and needs to be brought to an end.
“The Mayor says he wants to improve standards in the private rented sector, but the time for words is over. We intend to push the Mayor towards delivering practical solutions that will make a genuine difference to improve the quality of life of thousands of Londoners.”
Over a series of public meetings in the autumn, Committee Members will look at issues including:
- The characteristics of London’s private rented sector, and the role it will play in the future.
- Voluntary landlord accreditation schemes versus compulsory registration and membership.
- The effect of rent increases on low income households; the impact of changes to welfare policy; and the implications of increasing public subsidy of private landlords.
- The case for further regulation and landlord licensing, or extending existing powers.
- Addressing security of tenure through more flexible and longer tenancies.
- The nature, scale and extent of public subsidy to the private rented sector.
- Tenant and landlord rights.
- Developing the role of lettings agencies to help improve conditions.
The Committee is keen to hear from Londoners who rent privately or have done so in the past. Please email your experiences (in confidence) to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors:
- The average monthly rent in the private sector passed £1,200 for the first time in August 2011.
- The terms of reference for this investigation are: To review London’s private rented housing to identify its characteristics relative to other housing sectors – in respect to security of tenure, tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities, housing quality, standards and affordability; to identify options that will expand the supply of private rented homes (as part of a drive to increase overall new housing supply in London), improve the sector and make an impact in terms of achieving higher property standards and more secure and affordable tenancies; and to examine the policy and record of the Mayor, boroughs and government and to make practical recommendations to them aimed at achieving real improvements in London’s private rented sector. Recommendations will also be sought with regards to what the London Assembly can do to improve the sector. See more details about the Planning and Housing Committee’s private rented sector investigation.
- As well as how the Mayor can implement improvements through Homes for London, the review will also look at the role of local authorities and government. As part of his 2010 bid for additional housing powers the Mayor made a commitment to establish a London Housing Board (now called Homes for London). Homes for London is Chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property and provides a forum where London’s strategic housing policies can be developed in association with the boroughs and Mayoral appointees. In broad terms the Mayor’s Homes for London’s remit will include policy discussions about any revisions to the Mayor’s Housing Strategy and commissioning of new housing services or partnership arrangements.
- See our report: Bleak Houses: Improving London’s private rented housing (Dec 2011)
- The sector grew in London by 83 per cent between 2000 and 2010. One in four households (25.8 per cent) in London now rent privately and the sector is forecast to continue growing in the future.
- Private sector accommodation leased by London boroughs: £311 million; private sector accommodation leased or managed by RSLs: £20 million; paid directly to a private sector landlord: £58 million. CIPFA figures 2008/09. Following provisions introduced through the Localism Act, local authorities can now also discharge families classified as homeless into the private rented sector.
- Some boroughs and charities operate lettings agencies that will only advertise properties that meet certain minimum conditions or are let by landlords that agree to operate within acceptable codes of practice.
- The scope of the investigation was discussed with representatives of Shelter, the IPPR, the Association of Housing Advice Services, the National Landlords Association and LB Lewisham at the Committee’s meeting on 18 July 2012. Watch a webcast of the meeting or see agenda papers.
- Len Duvall AM, Chair of the London Assembly Housing and Regeneration Committee, is available for interview. See contact details below.
- The Committee’s future work programme will cover issues including housing association and council housing, and regeneration.
- 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 Dana Rothenberg in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4603/4283. 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.