South London renters ‘powerless’ against private landlords despite rising rates


Boris Johnson refused to commit to any new laws on the issue during a London Assembly meeting


By James Abbott, Max Bentley and Joe Short

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has refused to commit to proposals to strengthen the rights of tenants, despite rates in South West London rising by 4% this year.

Speaking during his annual budget statement at City Hall on Wednesday, the Mayor rubbished claims from Labour AM Tom Copley that London renters need more power to take landlords to court.

“We have got enough laws on that issue as it is,” said the mayor, before moving on.

Yet Mr Copley argued that with the rise in rent prices across the city, Mr Johnson must take responsibility on the issue.

“Your proposals do nothing to help people renting from private landlords,” he said. “Most tenants cannot afford to take their landlords to the small claims court.”

The decision comes as a bitter blow to tenants in South West London, who felt a 4% rise in rents in the last quarter of 2013 while properties in the more affluent areas of Kensington and Knightsbridge enjoyed a drop of the same percentage.

Residents across South London have spoken about the struggles they face from landlords who fail to provide acceptable standards given the huge cost of rent.

Jessica Green from Clapham said: “We rented a one bed flat from a private landlord at just over £1000 per month.

“Our stuff went mouldy and it was cold all the time. We asked the landlord to come over but he did nothing and then terminated our contract. When we moved out, he took £400 of our deposit.”

“We couldn’t afford to fight it as we had to pay out estate agent fees on our new place, they have you over a barrel,” she added.

Labour propose to invest £800,000 in 32 environmental health inspectors across the city and £72,000 on a new advice website and marketing campaign fortenants called ‘Know Your Rights.’

They also plan to start up private tenants groups in local authorities, a £3.2m project that Wandsworth, Lambeth and Merton renters would benefit from through advice and aid.

Another issue raised at City Hall was the lack of housing amongst London’s booming population, with concerns that the Mayor’s proposal to build 42,000 new homes a year doesn’t go far enough.

Labour AM Len Duvall also grilled Mr Johnson over his “complacency” in failing to tackle the issue of ‘buy-to-leave investors’, where affluent businessmen purchase homes in high growth areas like Kensington & Chelsea only to leave it empty instead of renting it out.

This practice is said to cause property prices to increase further as well as denying Londoners homes to buyorrent.

“Homes in London are not to be viewed as a global asset class,” said Mr Duvall.

Yet the Mayor remained optimistic for the future, laying out growth-support plans by cutting council tax for a second consecutive year, around 33p a month per London household.

“It is up to us to provide a decent proportion of affordable homes,” he said. “We have already improved the high standards from when I came into power.

“Housing is not like cars or hi-fi systems. Housing is infrastructure for the city,” he added.

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