How many of us are there?
In 2015 the Office for National Statistics found 62,500 private renters in Southwark- that’s 25 percent of the total population. The current figure is probably higher, considering how much the housing crisis has deepened since then. So there should be plenty of private renters to campaign with. You could start with Let Down, a London wide campaigning group and Southwark Tenants
If renting is so bad, why don’t private renters just buy a house?
Because in Southwark, the average home costs a whopping 14.67 times the annual average salary.
Why can’t they get a council house then?
Because there are currently 7, 096 waiting for council housing in the borough. This was at over 13,000 just three years ago, but this doesn’t reflect any kind of surge in house building. In fact, the waiting list was cut dramatically as the current shortage of social housing means that there is no chance at all that so many people could be housed by the council.
Looks like we’re stuck in the private rented sector then. What’s it going to cost?
Monthly average rents for Southwark, recorded by the Valuation Office Agency, are below. Remember, these figures don’t include fuel or council tax bills:
Room in a shared house: £700
Studio flat: £1,024
One bedroom flat: £1,278
Two-bedroom flat: £1,560
Three-bedroom flat: £1,900
House with four or more bedrooms: £2,600
That’s a lot. I guess that means a lot of private renters have to claim housing benefit to stay alive then?
Yes – more than 4,200 private renters in Southwark claim 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). In 2021, the monthly LHA rate in Southwark is:
Room in a shared house: £515.10
One-bedroom flat: £1146.86
Two-bedroom flat: £1346.28
Three-bedroom flat: £1670.41
Home with four or more bedrooms: £2193.97
Can I talk to someone at the council about problems with my private landlord?
You should always report repair issues to the landlord or their managing agent in writing but if their response is unsatisfactory, please contact the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Team. These are environmental health professionals who have powers to order landlords to maintain rented homes to a decent standard. You can find more about what they do here or contact them directly on 0207 525 3114.
Are there any Tenancy Relations Officers (TROs)?
Southwark Council provides a Tenancy Relations Service to give ‘specialist advice on the rights and responsibilities of private tenants, landlords and agents’. This includes a private tenants’ hotline which you can reach 24/7 on 020 7525 4113. They offer advice and support to tenants on a range of topics.
The Tenancy Relations Service is a high demand team who deal with numerous tenant queries and complaints each month and work alongside other teams in Southwark such as Environmental Health, Planning and Trading Standards. This should mean that a complaint from a tenant is assessed and tackled from all possible perspectives and legal frameworks and that such complaints inform service improvements across the Council.
Do private landlords in Southwark have to get a licence?
Licensing applies to all houses in multiple occupation in Southwark. If three or more people (who are not all family members) share a kitchen, a bathroom or a toilet at your address, your home should be licensed. As their previous schemes ended on 31 December 2020, Southwark Council has consulted widely in 2021, with a view to introducing new additional and selective licensing schemes.
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 Southwark Council run a non-profit letting agency for private renters?
Southwark Council’s procurement and new initiatives service within Housing Solutions offers private sector accommodation for those homeless or threatened with homelessness and does so under a social lettings/not for profit model.
However like the services run by many other councils this is not accessible for most private tenants.
Does Southwark council run a PRS forum where can renters discuss ways to make private renting fairer?
There is one for landlords, but no forum as such for tenants. However, Southwark does host a PRS Forum for renters’ representative organizations.
How many recent prosecutions has Southwark council made for criminal landlords?
In November 2020, Southwark Council successfully brought legal proceedings against a criminal landlord responsible who rented out of five cramped, sub-standard flats above commercial premises on the Old Kent Road. And the Council previously prosecuted a landlord for illegal eviction, as well as illegal subletting of Council accommodation. According to the National Residential Landlords Association, Southwark has prosecuted more criminal landlords than any other London borough since 2018.
Every council is divided between Councillors, who are elected politicians, and non-political officers, who are appointed to do a particular job. In Southwark, the Councillor with responsibility for private renters’ matters is