“Ahead of local elections in May we’re demanding councils #SideWithRenters. Councils have the power to inspect homes, issue financial penalties & order repairs but often take a soft touch approach.
“There are 300,000 Londoners living in homes that have serious health hazards. During 2018-2021 London councils only issued fines to 1,507 landlords
“8 London councils didn’t issue a single financial penalty notice during 2018-21 including Waltham Forest, Haringey & Lewisham. Hackney only carried out 1 inspection per 70 renters 2017-2020.
“Emails and calls to councils go unanswered. Many of our members have been wrongly told there’s nothing the council can do. This soft touch approach makes it cheaper for landlords to break the rules than follow them. It means dangerous disrepair and illegal eviction for us.”
And the union is urging supporters to write to prospective candidates seeking their backing for a range of controversial policies including rent controls.
I’m a renter who lives in London. This area is my home, but like many people in this city I face the joint pressures of high rents, insecurity and unaffordability. As someone seeking to be elected in this year’s local elections, it is important to me that we know you are on our side.
Councils hold key powers around enforcement of standards in the private/social rented sector, as well as powers and resources to help tackle issues of affordability in the area.
Councils can also use their platforms to speak out for bigger changes to the housing system, like ending section 21 evictions and supporting Sadiq Khan in his call for rent controls. But Freedom of Information requests show that councils across London could be doing so much more.
I am asking that you promise me that if elected you’ll make sure that the council takes meaningful action to tackle the housing crisis:
1. Hold landlords accountable
Councils have a legal duty to make sure landlords provide safe and healthy homes. But councils are letting renters down. Landlords provide unsafe housing, refuse repairs and carry out illegal evictions because councils are letting them get away with it. Councils should:
– Take a zero tolerance approach to landlords who deny us our rights. Publish targets on increasing the number of fines and legal actions taken against landlords who deny us our rights.
– Expand licensing borough-wide and inspect homes to make sure they meet legal standards before giving landlords a licence.
– Set out minimum safety and quality standards for temporary accommodation and take enforcement action against landlords that refuse to meet them.
– Pledge that there will be no collaboration between their work enforcing housing standards and the Home Office or Border Force.
2. No more forced displacement
Everyone has the right to stay in their community and with their families and support networks. Councils must:
– End the practise of forcing working class people to choose between leaving London or being declared ‘intentionally homeless’ and become at risk of street homelessness.
– Support people who make homelessness applications to stay in their home borough, if they wish to.
– Councils should ensure they are giving appropriate weight to invisible disabilities such as chronic mental health when making housing offers (e.g. to prevent people being inappropriately discharged into the private sector)
3. Bring the rents down
Council leaders should add their voice to the housing movement’s call for rent controls so that no one is forced to pay more than a third of their income on rent. Councils should pass a motion calling on the Government to introduce affordable and effective rent controls, and Labour councils should put pressure on the opposition to back them. Councils should collect and publish data on rent levels.
4. More accessible housing and support
Disabled people and those with other support needs should be able to get the advice and support they need to exercise their housing rights in a way that works for them. Councils should ensure that both housing itself and advice and support services are as accessible as possible to tenants. Councils should:
– Ensure that council advice and support is clear and easy to access by the individual themselves without needing to rely on another person. Support should be able to be accessed through multiple channels (such as email, telephone, face-to-face), and long and complex online forms should be eliminated.
– Set out a clear expectation for landlords and letting agents within the borough to ensure that there are multiple channels of communication for their tenants to approach them via.
– Take a proactive approach to informing people about their potential entitlement to support such as the Disabled Facilities Grant through council communications and advertising.
I hope that I can count on you to stand up for local renters?
You may receive lots of emails and letters like this. That is because myself and renters across the borough are going to be organising during these elections. We will be sharing responses in WhatsApp groups and creating a scorecard that we will share on social media. Given the seriousness of the housing crisis this is the only way to get our voices heard.