How many of us are there?
In 2015, the Office for National Statistics found 68,200 private renters– that’s a quarter 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. There isn’t a local renters’ group yet; maybe it’s time someone started one.
If renting is so bad, why don’t private renters just buy a house?
Because in Lewisham, the average home costs 11.61 times the average income. This isn’t bad compared to some parts of London, but it’s still out of reach for ordinary people.
Why can’t they get a council house then?
Because there are currently 9,058 households waiting for a council house 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 Lewisham, recorded by the Valuation Office Agency, are below. Remember, these figures don’t include fuel or council tax bills:
Room in a shared house: £530
One-bedroom flat: £1,050
Two-bedroom flat: £1,300
Three-bedroom flat: £1,600
House with four or more bedrooms: £2,200
That’s a lot. I guess that means a lot of private renters have to claim housing benefit to stay alive then?
Yes – 9,681 people in Lewisham 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 Lewisham, depending on which part of the borough you live in, is:
Room in a shared house: £351 or £396
One-bedroom flat: £670 or £850
Two-bedroom flat: £850 or £1,105
Three-bedroom: £1,010 or £1,378
House with four or more bedrooms: £1,342 or £1,789
Can I talk to someone at the council about problems with my private landlord?
Lewisham Council employs Private Sector Housing Fraud & Intelligence Officers, similar to Tenancy Relations Officers, but specialising in rooting out bad landlords. The officers work to protect renters from landlords who aren’t complying with their legal obligations. The Private Sector Housing Fraud & Intelligence Officers will help you if your landlord doesn’t meet to their legal obligations in relation to your right to safety, return of your deposit at the end of your tenancy and more.
Contact them via email or or call the Rogue Landlord Hotline 020 8314 8688. To protect you from any possible intimidation or bullying, the team at Lewisham Council will not reveal your identity to your landlord.
If your landlord is harassing you or trying to evict you illegally, telephone the Customer Services Team for legal advice 020 8314 7007
Do private landlords in Lewisham have to get a licence?
Alongside the mandatory HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) licensing scheme, which applies to all properties with three or more storeys high, landlords in Lewisham need a license if their property is a House in Multiple Occupation above a commercial property, regardless of how many floors or different numbers of households are in it. This is part of an additional licensing scheme.
Does Lewisham Council run a non-profit letting agency for private renters?
Lewisham Council does run a private lettings scheme, however, as is often the case, it seems to run more in the interests of the landlord than the tenants. They even get cash incentives of £1,500 just to keep their homes in order and treat their tenants properly! The scheme in Lewisham is available only accessible via referral from the Housing Options Team.
Does Lewisham Council have a PRS strategy as part of its housing policy?
Yes! Lewisham’s Housing Strategy 2015-20 aims is to achieve greater security and quality for private renters. The council wants to reduce rent levels to affordable rents (through working in partnership with other local authorities in the region), although this hasn’t actually happened yet. However, the creation of the Rogue Landlord Taskforce should have made improvements to conditions and quality for some private tenants.
Lewisham plans to create a Private Renters’ Charter. If you rent in Lewisham, and want to contribute or to know more,
How does Lewisham Council engage with renters?
A Private Renters’ Charter for Lewisham was one of Labour’s manifesto pledges in 2018. Now, we look forward to working with others to help Lewisham Council turn that pledge into a reality. If you rent in Lewisham, we’d be delighted to hear from you so
Councils have powers to prosecute landlords who break the law. Unfortunately, the time and money involved in so doing means that some councils don’t do it. Full licensing would allow councils to use civil, rather than criminal courts, and make it easier to hold bad landlords to account.
How many criminal landlords has Lewisham prosecuted recently?
Lewisham contributes to the Mayor of London’s Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker. Members of the public can see details of successful prosecutions and fines for a year after enforcement.
Councillors, who are elected politicans, and non-political officers, who are appointed to do a particular job, share responsibilities in local government. In Lewisham, you can contact:
Councillor Paul Bell
Cabinet Member for Housing
020 8314 7047
Ben Reeve Lewis
Rogue landlord expert