How many renters are there in Tower Hamlets?
According to the London Datastore, there were 81,300 renters in the borough in 2016, up from 77,204 recorded in the 2011 Census. That’s 29% of local residents so it shouldn’t be too hard to find people to campaign with.
If renting is so bad, why don’t private renters just buy a house?
Because in Tower Hamlets, the average home costs at least 9.33 times the average income. This is far out of reach for most people.
Why can’t they get a council house then?
Because there are currently 24,428 households on the waiting list for social housing 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 Tower Hamlets, recorded twice a year by the Valuation Office Agency, are below. Remember, these figures don’t include fuel or council tax bills:
Room in a shared house: £623 (up from £604 in 2014)
Studio flat: £1,306 (up from £1,103 in 2014)
One-bedroom flat: £1,515
Two-bedroom flat: £1,926 (up from £1,564 in 2014)
Three-bedroom flat: £2.345 (up from £2,124 in 2014)
House with four or more bedrooms: £3,006 (up from £2,374 in 2014)
That’s a lot. I guess that means a lot of private renters have to claim housing benefit to stay alive then?
Yes – at the end of 2016, 4,319 private renters in Tower Hamlets 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 Tower Hamlets is:
Room in a shared house: £442.39
One-bedroom flat: £1,115.18
Two-bedroom flat: £1,310.10
House with four or more bedrooms: £1,807.08
How many privately rented homes in the borough are overcrowded?
Tower Hamlets council’s survey found 14.7% of privately rented homes were overcrowded.
Can I talk to someone at the council about problems with my private landlord?
Yes. Tower Hamlets runs a housing advice service for private renters, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call them 020 7364 3558.
Are there any Tenancy Relations Officers (TROs)?
Sadly, no. Lots of councils used to have TROs to deal specifically with bad private landlords, but cuts have seen a lot of them go. As well as the general Housing Advice Service , Tower Hamlets has set up an advice line for private renters to call if they have problems, though.
Then, the Shelter helpline is also on hand to help. Your local renters’ group has not been active lately but if you’d like to get it up and running, please contact Renters’ Rights London and we’ll put you in touch with the local organizer.
Does the council keep lists of good and bad private landlords?
Although Tower Hamlets doesn’t do this, the Mayor of London’s database of criminal landlords and letting agents will be fully operational, covering all boroughs, from Spring 2018.
Do they record Section 21 (no-fault) evictions in the borough?
No. But perhaps they should. It could be that they’re waiting for a campaigner to tell them to.
Do private landlords in Tower Hamlets have to get a licence?
All councils have to licence Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs), where there at least three storeys and five people, but it’s up to each council to decide whether to do it for other privately rented homes, too. Since October 2016, every rented property in Whitechapel, Weavers, Spitalfields and Bangla Town has required a licence.
From April 2019, Tower Hamlets expanded landlord licensing to include all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) with three or four occupants living as two or more households and not already covered by another scheme. Tower Hamlets Council has also applied landlord licensing to flats with five or more renters, living as two or more households, in purpose built blocks with three or more flats.
That’s quite a long list of properties and areas of Tower Hamlets where landlords must apply for a licence. If licensing applies to your address, a copy of the licence should be on display somewhere in your home (usually, it’s in the hallway or the kitchen). If you think your home should be licensed and it is not, you can contact us and we’ll pass the message on to Tower Hamlets.
Does Tower Hamlets council run a non-profit letting agency for private renters?
Some councils have opened non-profit letting agencies for private renters, to try to help private renters avoid the extortionate fees and bad practices of high street letting agents. Tower Hamlets council isn’t doing this, though. Maybe a local campaigner should ask them to.
Tower Hamlets council are giving extra money to private landlords, to encourage them to rent homes to people that the council has a duty to rehouse. Usually, these renters are people who have been homeless. By using ‘financial incentive’ and ‘rent guarantee’ schemes, the council is spending public money to pay landlords, just to behave decently and make rents affordable to ordinary people – but landlords should be doing that anyway!
What is Tower Hamlets council doing to improve private renting in the borough?
As well as the Private Renters’ Charter, the council organizes regular meetings of Tower Hamlets Private Rental Sector Forum. Here, renters’ representatives meet with officers of the Council to work on improving life for Tower Hamlets renters. Renters’ Rights London serves on the Forum. If you live in Tower Hamlets and would like us to raise a particular issue at Tower Hamlets PRS Forum, please get in touch.
Councils have the power to prosecute landlords who break the law. Councils also have powers to issue civil penalties against landlords and letting agents who don’t comply with their obligations.
Tower Hamlets supplies information about successful criminal prosecutions and civil penalties issued, to the Mayor of London’s Rogue Landlord Database. Members of the public can view this information for one year from the date of the enforcement.
What else do I need to know?
The Mayor, John Biggs, criticized the London Rental Standard for being voluntary and therefore clearly not working. Maybe a local campaigner could ask his council how they’re getting on with that.
Who else should I talk to about making private renting fairer in Tower Hamlets?
Every council is divided between councillors, who are elected politicans, and non-political officers, who are appointed to do a particular job. In Tower Hamlets, these people might be useful to talk to:
Councillor Sirajul Islam
Statutory Deputy Mayor & Cabinet Member for Housing
write to him:
The Town Hall,
5 Clove Crescent
office: 0207 364 4668
mobile: 07931 708 308
Twitter : @CllrSirajIslam