Thousands of London’s private tenants are going without hot water or heating thanks to rogue landlords, according to a new report by the GLA Conservatives.
Just days after the revelation that someone is actually renting out a cupboard under the stairs for £500 per month, the Renter’s Paradise (PDF) report reveals an estimated 2,916 complaints per year from private tenants over landlords failing to complete essential repairs.
Despite repeated calls for better protection for tenants, the private rental market remains largely unregulated, with landlords and letting agents taking advantage of the surge in demand for rental properties in London.
Gemma Esseen rented a one bed flat in Walthamstow:
“I moved to London from Lancashire in 2013 and rented my first flat. I soon had problems with my boiler which meant no hot water or heating for 4 weeks. It was mid-winter and the flat was absolutely freezing. I couldn’t even shower, and on top of that, there was a massive draught from an ill-fitting broken front door and really bad damp. I was contacting my letting agency daily but nothing was getting done. It was such hard work, they were dragging their feet and it was a constant battle. I felt helpless. It was daunting. I was only 24, I had just moved to the city, it was my first flat and didn’t know my rights or who else to go to. In the end this left me no option but to end my tenancy as soon as I could.”
Although private tenants who need urgent repairs to their homes can contact their council’s environmental health team, the report says the time taken to investigate can stretch from 24 hours to 10 days. And when you consider that an urgent repair means no hot water, no heating, or a substantial leak, 10 days is a pretty long time.
While the Mayor’s London Rental Standard (LRS) is intended to protect tenants from rogue landlords, the basic fact is that as a voluntary scheme, it’s always going to be of limited help. The author of Renter’s Paradise, and London Assembly member Kemi Badenoch calls for landlords under the LRS to introduce pre-defined arrangements in case of an emergency:
“Nobody should have to live without the basics such as heating or hot water, and it’s unacceptable that local authorities are having thousands of cases referred to them every year, placing a huge unnecessary burden on their limited resources. We can improve living conditions for tenants with practical, common-sense measures rather than excessive regulation.”
The report’s recommendations include a city-wide voluntary time limit for initial responses by local authorities, league tables of average response times and Fixed Penalty Notices for rogue landlords.
Which is great. But again, it’s all voluntary. While the GLA Tories say there is no need for additional regulation for landlords, the fact that private tenants are still experiencing broken boilers, vermin infestations and dodgy electrics two years after the LRS was launched suggests that perhaps there might be a need after all.
Update: That £500 per month cupboard might not be quite what it seems…