Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan calls for two-year rent freeze in London

In a letter addressed to housing secretary Robert Jenrick on 16th September, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has asked the government for the power to freeze private rents in London for two years.

This would act as an emergency measure to protect renters from the impact of Covid-19.

During this time, rents would be allowed to fall, but not rise.

There would be a freeze on rent increases both between and within tenancies, effective immediately, and therefore landlords must not charge new tenants a higher rent than the previous.

There would also be an option to extend the two-year freeze if the Covid-19 results in the economic outlook for renters are not improving.

The mayor has warned of an impending “tsunami of evictions” without further government support for renters.

He said: “More than ever, Covid-19 means that many of London’s private renters are facing a really uncertain future.

“More likely to be in lower-paid and insecure work, the end of the furlough scheme means even more renters in the capital are now at risk of pay cuts or losing their job.

“Yet at every stage of this pandemic, renters have been treated as an afterthought by the government, with protection measures only ever rushed out at the last minute.”

He added that the rent freeze was only one part of a package of measures renters needed from government to ensure no one is evicted as a result of this pandemic.

The wider package of support for renters Sadiq Khan is asking the government for, includes:

  • grants to allow renters to stay in their homes and clear arrears until the government can make changes to welfare that will support everyone to sustain their tenancies in the longer term
  • expanding access to welfare, including scrapping the Benefit Cap, uprating Local Housing Allowance to median market rents, and making additional discretionary housing payments to cover shortfalls and extending eligibility to all renters, including those not currently entitled
  • scrapping section 21 “no fault” eviction as soon as possible, and restricting access to section 8 evictions until the wider welfare measures outlined above are brought in.

Recent research from the GLA and YouGov estimated that a quarter of London’s 2.2 million privately renting adults have fallen behind on their rent, or say they are likely to do so as a direct result of the pandemic.

More than a third of private renters polled said they thought the pandemic was having a ‘large impact’ on their personal finances, with half a million Londoners now potentially facing eviction.

The government’s temporary extension to the evictions ban finishes on 20th September.

Alicia Kennedy, director at Generation Rent, said the company was delighted that the Mayor had adopted its proposal for a freeze on rents.

“At Generation Rent, we've heard from tenants who have been hit with a rent increase after telling their landlord that their income has been affected by the pandemic.

“With the economy in recession and coronavirus cases on the rise, landlords should not be permitted to raise rents and force a tenant into an unwanted move.”

However, Timothy Douglas, policy and campaigns manager at ARLA Propertymark, criticised the move, saying it was “vital” that the situation was not worsened through any measures on landlords as a kneejerk reaction to the conditions created by Covid-19.

“It is important to be proportionate to all involved in the sector — tenants, agents and landlords — as the economy struggles to recover in this period.

“The vast majority of landlords are supporting good tenants to stay in their properties, but a mandatory rent freeze would serve to deter investment in the private rented sector at exactly the time when more is being asked of landlords.”

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