Votes for Renters!
Private renters are less likely to register to vote than home owners, new analysis from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan shows. City Hall analysis of the electoral roll and housing in London found that boroughs with the highest numbers of private renters have the lowest levels of voter registration. These results confirm national estimates from the Electoral Commission; around 94% of owner-occupiers are registered to vote, compared with just 63% of private renters.
If politicians know that we don’t vote in numbers, they don’t have act in favour of private renters to win elections. Their key policies will be designed to appeal to those who do vote; home-owners and landlords.
Until 1918, men were denied the vote unless they owned property and wealth. Women aged under 30 who did not hold property/wealth had to wait until 1928 to secure the vote. Men and women fought for the right to vote because without the vote, they knew that they would remain downtrodden. Now, we seem to be giving up the hard-won gains of the 20th Century too easily.
The nature of the assured shorthold tenancy causes renters to move house more often than other people. In the last year, 27% of London renters moved, compared with 5% of social renting households and just 3% of owner occupiers. Finding a new place, moving home and settling in is stressful. It all takes up a great deal of time and energy. But registering to vote should be seen as part of that process.
Let’s not be led backwards!
It takes 5 minutes to enter your name on the electoral register
>> https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote <<
and, whenever the time comes, do please cast your vote
How to end a fixed term tenancy early
In recent weeks, Renters’ Rights London has had word from several people who now regret having signed fixed term agreements of two years. As parents with school age children, all welcomed the greater stability that a longer tenancy agreement offers. In each case, life events have made the two year tenancies impossible to sustain.
These renters contacted us hoping to learn of some law which would provide an exit route. But there is no such law. If you sign a fixed term contract, you are bound by it for the full term of that contract, or until the point of any break clause. If you quickly become aware of some issue which would have caused you not to move in had you known about it beforehand, you should be able to exercise your right to unwind. But otherwise, you are bound by the terms of the tenancy agreement.
If you need to move for some reason, you’ll have to negotiate with the property owner. Write to the landlord, and seek their agreement for you to surrender the tenancy. You might not wish to explain your motive, but it might help your case if you do. There is no obligation on the landlord to agree to allow surrender of the tenancy and no landlord is likely to welcome the news that you want or need to move out early.
Bear this in mind as you compose your email or letter. Explain the situation as clearly and briefly as possible. Keep the tone polite. Remember to ask the question; would the landlord please agree to terminate the tenancy agreement?
Merely returning the keys and leaving the property does not end a tenancy. Under those circumstances, you are still be liable for the full rent until the flat or house is re-let or until the last day of the fixed term, whichever is sooner.
Once you know that you need to move out, do not delay in contacting the property owner. Ideally, you will offer at least one months notice. That should provide the owner with enough time to find someone else to move in after you.
Even if your tenancy began after 1 June 2019, when the Tenant Fees Act came into effect, you could still be asked to pay a fee to surrender the tenancy. But the fee cannot be any more than the landlord’s loss, though. If your tenancy began before 1 June 2019, the new law does not apply to you until June 2020.
One renter contacted us for advice on how to challenge the fee of £200 imposed for termination of the tenancy. But the alternative is to remain bound by the tenancy agreement and so liable for six more months rent. There’s nothing we can do to change that. If the property owner/landlord wants to charge a fee, it’s hard to argue with in this case.
Above all, these realities underline why renters need open-ended tenancies, rather than longer fixed terms. We might intend to stay in our homes for many years but “life is what happens while you’re busy making plans” as the saying goes. And renters, too, need to be free to go with life.
Islington is consulting
Islington council is determined to ensure that homes rented from private landlords are decent homes. The council wants to introduce a borough wide additional licensing scheme for all homes in multiple occupation (HMOs). An HMO is any house or flat where three or more people share facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. Many HMOs are already covered by statutory licensing. But flats in purpose-built blocks are not included in the national scheme.
In boroughs like Islington, many flats on council estates are now in the hands of private landlords and rented out to sharers. Extending licensing to all HMOs will help to ensure standards are met in these flats, as elsewhere. Every property licence specifies the maximum number of people who can live in a house or flat. This number is set to ensure that renters can live in dignity, with sufficient room space, proper access to a kitchen, a bathroom and toilet.
Islington Council also aims to introduce licensing scheme for all privately rented homes, of any size, in Finsbury Park ward. This is because council receives more complaints about rented homes in this area than any other.
At Renters’ Rights London, we understand the extent of the inspection regime which accompanies licensing to be crucial to the success of a scheme. We’ll say so in our response to this consultation, as well. In this way. licensing creates a level playing field for landlords who are fully compliant with the law, as non-compliant landlords learn to meet their legal responsibilities.
If you live in the London Borough of Islington (or nearby) do please contribute a response to this consultation, if you can?
As part of the consultation process, the council is hosting three drop-in sessions:
9 September, from 0930 until 1300h, in Committee Room 3, Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2DU
1 October, from 0930 until 1300h, at North Library, Manor Gardens, Holloway N7 6JX and
2 October, from 1300h until 1700h, at N4 Library, 26 Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park N4 2DW
If there’s something you would like Renters’ Rights London to include in our response to this consultation, let us know?