How many of us are there?
The 2011 Census found 66,169 private renters in the borough – that’s nearly a third of the borough. The current figure is probably higher, considering how much the housing crisis has deepened since then. So it shouldn’t be too hard to find private renters to campaign with. In fact, there’s already at least one group for Camden private renters.
If renting is so bad, why don’t private renters just buy a house?
Because in Camden, the average home costs more than 15 times the average income.
Why can’t they get a council house then?
Because there are currently 20,720 households on the waiting list for social housing in the borough.
Looks like we’re stuck in the private rented sector then. What’s it going to cost?
Monthly median average rents for Camden, recorded twice a year by the Valuation Office Agency, are below. Remember, these figures don’t include fuel or council tax bills:
Room in a shared house: £780
Studio flat: £1,040
One bedroom flat: £1,430
Two bedroom flat: £1,820
Three bedroom flat: £2,503
House with four or more bedrooms: £3,250
That’s a lot. I guess that means a lot of private renters have to claim housing benefit to stay alive then?
Yes – 4,260 private renters in Camden need housing benefit to cover their rent.
And does housing benefit cover it?
No. The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is the maximum amount of housing benefit you can get, regardless of whether you’re a private renter (renting from a private landlord) or a social renter (renting from the council or a housing association). The monthly LHA in Camden is:
Room in a shared house: £407.63 or £586.84 depending on which part of Camden you live in
One-bedroom flat: £1,118.26
Two-bedroom flat: £1,297.14
House with four or more bedrooms: £1,789.19
Can I talk to someone at the council about problems with my private landlord?
Yes. Camden council runs a housing advice service, here or on 020 7974 4444. Unlike some London councils, Camden has a specialist team for private renters and they are trained to help if you have received a section 21 notice or are experiencing illegal eviction or harassment from your landlord.
So Camden still has Tenancy Relations Officers (TROs)?
Camden calls them the Private Sector Sustainment Team, but they have the same function as TROs (for example, tackling private landlords who harass their tenants). The team manager is Harcourt Jones, on 020 7974 8854.
How about the Environmental Health team – do they help private renters?
Yes. In fact, Camden is one of the better London councils for this: while some London councils have only a general environmental health team for all types of home, Camden has a large environmental health team dedicated to private renting. They deal with things like damp, mould, infestations and hot water.
Does the council keep up-to-date lists of good and bad private landlords?
As far as we know, no. But it would be useful, wouldn’t it? Maybe a local campaigner should ask them to.
Do they record Section 21 (no-fault) evictions in the borough?
Not as far as we know. Perhaps they’re waiting for a campaigner to suggest it.
Do private landlords in Camden have to get a licence?
Some councils, like Newham, make private landlords get a licence so they know who the local landlords are and what sort of state their properties are in. It’s a bit like driving a car: you might own it, but you have to get a licence so you don’t risk damaging others when you’re driving it.
All councils have to licence large Houses of Multiple Occupation (large HMOs are currently defined as a house with more than two storeys, or with five or more people living in it). But councils can also choose to licence smaller HMOs, and Camden has recently started doing this. So in Camden any shared home with three or more adults in it, regardless of the number of storeys, now needs a landlord licence. Remember, if your landlord has failed to get a licence, any Section 21 (no-fault eviction notice) you receive is invalid. More info about Camden’s landlord licensing here.
Does Camden council run a non-profit letting agency for private renters?
Some councils are starting to run non-profit letting agencies for private renters, to help private renters avoid the extortionate fees and bad practices of high street letting agents. Camden council has set up a pilot called Camden Homes.
Does Camden council give cash incentives to private landlords just to behave decently?
Unfortunately, yes. The council gives private landlords cash incentives of around £2,500 to £4,000 just to behave decently and make rents affordable to ordinary people – when landlords should be doing that anyway!
Does Camden council have a Private Rented Sector (PRS) forum, where private renters can discuss ways to make private renting better?
Unfortunately, Council council only consults landlords at a regular forum – not renters. But it helps fund a local private renters’ group, who find out what’s going on locally and report back to the council.
Not many people know that councils have the power to prosecute landlords who break the law. Unfortunately, in the current system it takes lots of time and money to do this using the criminal courts, so some councils don’t do it. Licensing would allow councils to use civil rather than criminal courts, which would make it easier to hold bad landlords to account.
How many criminal landlords has Camden prosecuted in the last five years?
We don’t know yet. Perhaps a local campaigner should make a Freedom of Information request to find out: www.whatdotheyknow.com
What else do I need to know?
Camden council runs the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (recently renamed the London Rental Standard). Unfortunately, this is only a voluntary scheme, so most landlords don’t sign up to it. Those that do sign up don’t face very many checks – and besides, private renters are rarely in a position to choose between an accredited landlord and a non-accredited one.
Who else should I talk to about making private renting fairer in Camden?
Every council is divided between councillors, who are elected politicans, and non-political officers, who are appointed to do a particular job. In Camden, these people might be useful to talk to:
Councillor Patricia Callaghan
Cabinet Member for Housing
Director of Housing