Back in September, we asked you to let us know of any ethical letting agents (because a renter had asked us). Disappointingly, not one person had anything to tell Renters’ Rights London in this regard. Since then, we’ve learnt of the Ethical Landlords’ Association. Based in Birmingham but with members nationwide, the Ethical Landlords’ Association is also open to letting agents. At the time of writing, no agent in London has yet signed up to the Charter but still, we’re hopeful.
Soaring rents and suppressed wages leave many thousands of families struggling. Social housing (especially council housing) would make all the difference. Without so much money tied up in deposits, without such a high proportion of our incomes devoted to keeping the roof over our heads, we could more readily meet the cost of other essentials, even without a pay rise.
National Housing Federation (NHF) is making the case for more social housing. They need help from people with the knowledge that only first-hand experience can bring. If you’re a parent, living in the private rented sector, would you be willing to speak about the issues to NHF and then, perhaps to a journalist?
If this doesn’t apply to you but might apply to your neighbour, a friend or family member, please pass the message on? We are desperate for change. We need to come together to bring about that change. Please do help if you can? I’d be grateful to have word from you or call me on 020 3826 4783, before Friday 30th. If I’m not at my desk when you call, please leave a message and I’ll call you back.
The Council: Local Authorities’ Powers
Although you rent your home privately, the local council is vested with powers to act if your landlord is unresponsive to repair issues or other legal requirements. Recently, though, we’ve heard from several renters about council officers denying any responsibility for problems, including gas safety. These officers are mistaken, at best. If your landlord or their agent ignores serious issues such as
- exposed wiring or overloaded electrical sockets
- broken or faulty boiler
- no valid gas safety certificate
- bedrooms that are very cold
- leaking roof
- mould on the walls or ceiling
- rats or other pest or vermin infestation
- broken steps at the top of the stairs
- lack of security due to badly-fitting external doors or problems with locks
You should report the matter to the residential environmental health team of your local council.
The above is not a full list of the problems you can report, just common examples. If the council does not respond kindly or if they tell you (over the telephone) that the matter is not within their area of responsibility, please let Renters’ Rights London know?
If you have encountered a letting agent who doesn’t display a list of all their fees in their offices or on their website, or an agent who advertised a decent property and then showed you a less good one, and convinced you to rent that instead, the Council’s trading standards team are the people to contact. Again, some local trading standards teams have misinformed renters, saying they don’t deal with certain matters.
We know that conditions of government ‘austerity’ have left local councils with reduced and insufficient budgets. We sympathize. Still, we cannot simply allow council officers to negate their duties. As renters around London can confirm, Renters’ Rights London will speak to the council on your behalf, if necessary. Don’t be afraid to contact us , if you need to.
The London Assembly Environment Committee is investigating cold and damp homes in London. They want to hear your experience, to help them formulate solutions and initiatives that work for all Londoners. There are three types of damp. Rising damp is found in ground level flats with insufficient or no damp proofing. Penetrating damp is caused by damaged brickwork, degraded mortar, leaking gutters or down pipes and so can appear on any floor of a building. Then, there’s condensation. Condensation often arises from poor ventilation or excessively low room temperature but can also indicate structural problems, which will never be cured by opening a window. If you can contribute to the investigation, please do.
The campaign to #EndSection 21 is supported by organizations from Age UK London to Zacchaeus 2000 Trust. It’s spearheaded by Generation Rent, who hosted a meeting in Whitechapel on 7th November, where we were invited to #ReinventYourRent. Nearly two-thirds of all evictions using Section 21 are in Greater London.
We know that the possibility of ‘no fault’ eviction under Section 21 deters renters from reporting disrepair. In practice, the provisions in the Deregulation Act 2015 offer insufficient protection in this regard. Even where accommodation is of a good standard, Section 21 still condemns renters to much uncertainty. This is stressful and entirely incompatible with our human right to adequate housing. Security of tenure is essential to adequacy.
#ReinventYourRent invites us to consider what we want instead. After all we’ve learnt from correspondence with renters in distress across London (and beyond), it’s hard to find anything we’d like to keep in the whole of Chapter 2 of Housing Act 1988 , which received Royal Assent on 15th November of that year.
Renters’ Rights London has long called for indefinite tenancies, with a minimum term of six months. Although there are 10 mandatory grounds for eviction specified in Scotland (not all of them are applicable to every tenancy) as well as eight discretionary grounds, today, we still think the Scottish Private Residential Tenancy looks preferable to the Assured Shorthold Tenancy. What do you think, though? How would you #ReinventYourRent? Drop us a line to let us know and we’ll be sure to contribute your hopes for the future of renting to the campaign.
Last, but by no means least, next Thursday, 6th December, there is to be a Westminster Hall debate, sponsored by Karen Buck MP, on ‘The use of Section 21 Evictions in the Private Rented Sector‘.
Nearly two-thirds of all evictions under Section 21 are in Greater London. As Trust for London research revealed, high eviction rates seem to occur in London boroughs with high proportions of families with children, and receiving housing to meet market rents. As we know, the lack of social housing means that more low-income families are likely to find themselves in the private rented sector, and facing a greater risk of eviction.
These are just some of the reasons that we’re keen to ensure as many London MPs as possible attend the debate, and that they speak up for the interests of their constituents living in the private rented sector. Generation Rent has made it super-easy to contact your MP about this