It is often claimed that London is a different country to the rest of the UK as nearly everything is more expensive and markets often differ there compared to the rest of the country. This is extremely true when it comes to the property and private rental sectors, as in London property and rent prices are much higher than anywhere else in the country. This is mainly due to the fact that London is a hub for UK business, which means that many people move there in search of work.
There are currently millions of people who rent private accommodations in the Greater London area, which means that the percentage of those renting their homes rather than owning them is much higher than in most other parts of the UK. This is why many people claim that it is of the utmost importance that the private rental sector in the capital is kept to the highest standards, and today London’s Mayor Boris Johnson revealed his new London Rental Standard which sets out how letting agents and landlords should run their businesses.
At the moment, it is not mandatory for landlords who let properties in London to sign up to the London Rental Standard, however as with most landlord registration schemes there are benefits of doing so. Firstly, it means that landlords are likely to see more business as tenants will generally look for a landlord who has signed up to such a scheme. Furthermore, it is claimed that by signing up to the London Rental Standard landlords can save money on tenancy deposit schemes and landlord insurance policies. Tenants can also benefit from the scheme as it means that their landlord will be required to provide a safe and affordable property, and if they fail to do so can be struck from the register.
However, some have claimed that the London Rental Standard doesn’t do enough to protect tenants, such as London Assembly Member Darren Johnson, who said: “The mayor of London’s standard gives tenants no real protections against landlords evicting in retaliation for complaints, or against big rent hikes, and fails to ban outrageous letting agent fees. He is effectively endorsing six landlord registers that will only cover good landlords. We need regulations to protect tenants from all the rest.”
There are those that have been more supportive of the London Rental Standard however, such as chief executive of the housing charity Crisis, Leslie Morphy, who said: “The London Rental Standard is to be welcomed. We must ensure it is taken up widely so that it makes renting better for everybody, including those struggling under the worst conditions in London. Our chief concern is that voluntary schemes tend to be ignored by those providing bad services. Too often, people on low incomes find themselves at the mercy of bad landlords, trapped in poor quality housing on short-term tenancies that prevent them putting down roots.
“People in this situation have to take what they can get and rarely have the freedom to choose their landlord. Without proper enforcement, the worst landlords are likely to sidestep any minimum standards because they know they can still find tenants. The ending of a private tenancy is now the leading cause of statutory homelessness in London. Yet we know from our own work that with responsible landlords and the right support, renting can provide a solution to homelessness. Private renting is more important than ever before. We must make sure it works for everyone.”
Even though some are claiming that the London Rental Standard doesn’t do enough to protect tenants, it is difficult for the London Mayor or any local council for that matter to implement rules that are overly strict. By doing this, landlords may start to look elsewhere to invest their money, ultimately exacerbating the current housing crisis across the country. However, it is good to see that many councils including London’s are taking the safety of those that rely on the private rental sector seriously, and it is likely that in a few years’ time the London Rental Standard will be revisited in order to make improvements that will benefit both landlords and tenants.