London landlords make £500m from taxpayers for substandard homes

A street of HMOs
Sadiq Khan said that rent controls needed to be introduced in London

Almost £3.5 billion is being paid to landlords letting out homes of a non-decent standard in London each year – with nearly half a billion pounds effectively coming from taxpayers, City Hall figures have revealed.

London mayor Sadiq Khan branded it a “scandal” that not only was so much money going to private landlords of dangerous, cold or dilapidated homes, but also that £493 million of that rent was coming from housing benefit.

The City Hall statistics show that some 178,784 homes in London are “non-decent” – an official designation for homes that pose a risk to residents’ health or life, are in a bad state of repair, are cold or lack modern facilities.

On average, a Londoner can expect to pay around £19,503 per year to rent one of these properties.

Khan said that the Westminster government needed to take “national action to support renters”, including giving him the power to impose a rent freeze. But a government spokesman rejected the demand, claiming that evidence showed that private sector rent controls did not work.

Khan said: “It is a scandal that some private landlords are profiting from letting sub-standard housing that is unfit for 21st century living. Renters would feel more secure raising complaints about the condition of their property if they didn’t face the threat of arbitrary eviction, which is why I have long called for Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions to be abolished.

“The government should also give me the power to drive up standards and introduce a rent freeze in London to help people during this cost of living crisis.

“If we are to continue building a better London for everyone, we need the government to step up to empower our city’s renters.”

The mayor added: “Ministers must urgently introduce the long-promised renters’ reform legislation, properly fund borough enforcement teams, and increase the fines for landlords who break the rules.”

London has the most non-decent properties of any English region, and is paying the most for them. Across England, a total of 970,198 non-decent properties were yielding almost £9 billion for landlords, of which £1.6 billion came from housing benefit.

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Councils should use the powers we’ve given them to crack down on rogue landlords, including issuing fines of up to £30,000 and banning those who rent out unsafe homes.

“Our white paper, A Fairer Private Rented Sector, set out plans to fundamentally reform the sector and level up housing quality in this country, including introducing a legally binding Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector for the first time ever.”

He added: “Evidence shows rent controls in the private sector do not work – leading to declining standards and a lack of investment and may encourage illegal subletting.”

LDRS logoNoah Vickers is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority, based at the Evening Standard. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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