How many of us are there?
In 2015 the Office for National Statistics found 93,200 private renters in Lambeth, nearly a third of the borough and more than 3 times the amount of people who own their own home outright. 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 private renters in south London.
If renting is so bad, why don’t private renters just buy a house?
Because in Lambeth, the average home costs 14.95 times the average annual salary.
Why can’t they get a council house then?
Because there are currently 18, 792 households on the waiting list for a council house in the borough- one of the highest numbers in all of London.
Looks like we’re stuck in the private rented sector then. What’s it going to cost?
Monthly median average rents for Lambeth, recorded by the Valuation Office Agency, are below. Remember, these figures don’t include fuel or council tax bills:
Room in a shared house: £650
Studio flat: £936
One bedroom flat: £1,343
Two bedroom flat: £1,600
Three bedroom flat: £2, 167
House with four or more bedrooms: £2,950
That’s a lot. I guess that means a lot of private renters have to claim housing benefit to stay alive then?
Yes – 7,241 in Lambeth need housing benefit to help 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 Lambeth depends on where you live in the borough:
Inner South East London
Shared Accommodation Rate: £515.10
One Bedroom Rate: £1146.86
Two Bedrooms Rate: £1346.28
Three Bedrooms Rate: £1670.41
Four Bedrooms Rate: £2193.97
Inner South West London
Shared Accommodation Rate: £506.61
One Bedroom Rate: £1280.46
Two Bedrooms Rate: £1545.74
Three Bedrooms Rate: £1914.73
Four Bedrooms Rate: £2572.92
Can I talk to someone at the council about problems with my private landlord?
Yes- they have a general housing advice team here or on 020 7926 4444. Lambeth council told the local private renters group that they would launch a specialist advice service, but so far we haven’t seen that happen. Not all London councils offer this – some only give general housing advice – but a specialist private renting team would be trained to help if you have received a section 21 notice, or are experiencing illegal eviction or harassment from your landlord.
These contacts may also be useful if you’re experiencing issues as a private renter:
So there aren’t any Tenancy Relations Officers (TROs)?
Lambeth employs one housing adviser who investigate unlawful eviction and harassment complaints. Lambeth council says private renters should contact the general Housing Advice Service if they have problems, but in our experience it’s hard to get the help you need as a private renter. You’re better off calling the Shelter helpline.
Do private landlords in Lambeth have to get a licence?
All councils have to licence larger Houses of Multiple Occupation. So if five or more people share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet at your address, the property should be licensed. Licensing is part of the landlord’s job. Renters never have to pay for the licence. If your home is not licensed when it should be, it’s the landlord’s fault, not yours.
Does Lambeth council run a non-profit letting agency for private renters?
Yes, Lambeth Lets is a free service that introduces landlords to tenants. However, it has its limitations and is not easily accessible to all private renters. You can read about it in full detail here
Does Lambeth council have a Private Rented Sector (PRS) forum, where private renters can discuss ways to make private renting better?
Unfortunately, Lambeth council only consults private landlords at a quarterly forum – not private renters. Perhaps local campaigners for better renting should tell the council what’s going on in their local PRS – from a renter’s point of view.
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.
How many criminal landlords has Lambeth prosecuted in the last five years?
We don’t know yet. As the figure has not published we suspect the number is very small. However, at the time of writing, Lambeth Council is currently prosecuting one rogue landlord
Who else can I talk to about making private renting fairer in Lambeth?
Every council is divided between Councillors, who are elected politicians, and non-political officers, who are appointed to do a particular job. In Lambeth, Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment Councillor Jenny Brathwaite might be useful to talk to.