Minister of Housing supports rent controls
She is the Minister in France, not UK, though. Since 1 January, legal limits have applied to the sum property owners can charge in 28 municipalities including Bordeaux and Montpellier. Paris introduced rent controls back in 2019.
Since 2018, when government passed ‘the Elan law’, cities have been able to implement rent controls to protect tenants and to create more affordable housing. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, rent control is understood as part of efforts to provide stability, and the proper way to ensure affordable rents. Emmanuelle Wargon, their Minster of Housing, was reported as saying “An important step has been taken in the deployment of rent control in France, a system that I support.”
In England, neither regional government nor local government has the power respond to needs in this way. Ours is highly centralized system. Until those powers are devolved, only national government can enact similar measures. Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London, has already come out in favour of rent controls. But he lacks the necessary powers.
“We’re never going to solve Londons housing problem unless we empower the Mayor with more tools at their disposal, to deliver the needs of London” Baron Kerslake told the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee meeting last month. And Baron Kerslake said that Andy Burnham is keen for Manchester renters to benefit from the same. Cllr. James Jamieson, who Chairs the Local Government Association, agreed that “a Mayoral model works in urban areas with a clear identity.” He went on to say that “We need to say it’s better done locally unless there’s a better argument to do it centrally. “
There is no good argument for such a heavily centralized system as ours. London has long been an outlier in national housing statistics, from average rent as a percentage of average income, to the rate of ‘no fault’ evictions. National government has already promised tenancy reform, via the Renters’ Reform Bill, to put an end to ‘no fault’ evictions. The right for local or regional government to introduce rent controls could be among the reforms, to create a housing system fit for our time.
While we still have ‘no fault’ evictions
A renter in distress got in touch after the property owner served a section 21 notice which expires at the end of the fixed term; 14 March 2021. They wanted to know if the s.21 notice is actually valid, as it does not provide the legally required six months notice period required until 31 March 2021.
Since the 29th August 2020 it has been necessary for landlords to provide tenants with six months notice when seeking possession under s.21 Housing Act 1988. The extended notice period was introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The requirement to provide an extended period of six months notice under s.21 Housing Act 1988 is in place until 31st March 2020, at least.
But if you receive an invalid s.21 notice, at what point should you inform the landlord that there’s a problem with the notice? This is a tactical decision. The answer depends on what you want to happen.
If you would like to stay in your home for as long as possible, don’t highlight the problem at once. As soon as you do, the landlord is likely to move swiftly to remedy the problem to their best advantage. The longer it takes for the landlord to start over again, the better this may be for you.
If you say nothing, the landlord will have to apply to court for possession. But when the moment comes, you must enter a defence (that the s.21 notice is invalid and you need more time at your current address). If you do so, you are highly likely to buy more time.
In cases where a defence is arguable but not so clear cut, it’s probably better to inform the landlord just before a possession claim begins. This could buy the maximum time without the risk of court costs, if the defence should fail.
Unfortunately, under our current law, it is never entirely possible to guarantee the outcome of a possession claim. But where a clear defence exists, the risk of possession being awarded and costs being incurred is low.
It can be distressing to receive a notice seeking possession. If it happens (and it happens a lot in London), please remember that such a notice does not reflect badly on you. A notice seeking possession under section 21 of Housing Act 1988 does not mean you have done anything wrong. Not at all. If you receive a notice seeking possession, you can seek expert advice on next steps from a local law clinic .
When the bills are piling up
The warm home discount scheme covers pensioners, people on means-tested benefits and people whose household income is under £16,190. If you’re eligible, you could get £140 taken off your energy bills for the year.
If your energy supplier has more than 200,000 customers, they will offer the warm home discount. But the number of discounts available is limited. Even if you have had the discount before, you still have to re-apply each year. It’s up to a supplier who gets a discount so check with your energy company, as soon as possible. The warm homes discount will be applied to your bill before the end of March.
This scheme is certainly useful but people will still struggle to stay warm without a stronger benefit system and help getting out of problem debt.
Debt advice is available from Debt Free London, offering help 24/7, around the clock, until the end of February.
If you want to talk to someone about debt, you can call 0800 808 5700, free of charge
WhatsApp message to 0800 808 5700
There are video advice sessions online www.debtfree.london/video and
live web chat online www.debtfree.london
Do you live in Tower Hamlets?
If so, do please help the local authority increase their understanding of how and what people living locally think about the climate emergency?
Back in 2019, Tower Hamlets Council set some ambitious targets; to make the council net zero carbon in its operations by 2025 and across the borough by 2050. ‘Net Zero carbon’ refers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the lowest possible level and then, offsetting remaining emissions. Although nine London boroughs are home to more people, Tower Hamlets produces the fourth highest levels of total carbon emissions in London. Densely populated and located close to the River Thames, the risks of flooding and overheating are greater in Tower Hamlets than in many parts of London. Do you agree that we all have a small part to play in tackling the issue?
The outcome of this survey—here it is—will be made public. Entries close at midnight on Tuesday 2 March.