The Mayor of London has slammed thousands of private landlords who are pocketing the rent and housing benefits from tenants living in housing riddled with mould and damp, branding it “a scandal”.
The reaction came in response to New City Hall analysis which shows that across the country, landlords are collecting £9bn a year in rent for ‘non-decent’ privately rented homes, with £1.6bn of this coming from housing benefit.
‘Non-decent’ is an official government 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.
It was revealed that in the capital London has the highest rent spend, with landlords raking in £3.5bn in rent, £500m of which comes from housing benefit, every year from around 180,000 privately rented substandard homes.
In response, Sadiq Khan has said he is calling on the government to give him the power to freeze rents during the cost of living crisis to “stop bad landlords profiteering from poor homes and to drive up private renting standards in the capital”.
“If we are to continue building a better London for everyone, we need the government to step up to empower our city’s renters,” Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London, said.
He added: “Ministers must urgently introduce the long-promised Renters Reform legislation, properly fund borough private rented sector enforcement teams, and increase the fines for landlords who break the rules.”
In terms of oversight, local authorities have the power to inspect properties and require improvements.
David Smith, head of property litigation at JMW Solicitors, said that local authorities “have long been encouraged by landlord organisations to be proactive in inspecting properties for which benefits have been paid”.
“Local authorities should use their powers to deal with these properties and need to use them effectively,” Smith said, adding that the mayor himself could “do a lot to encourage this”.
When it comes to housing standards, the government has set a clear target: it wants all homes in the UK to have an EPC rating – a measure of a property’s energy efficiency – of C by 2028.
Yet currently 4.5 million rental properties across the country have an EPC rating of D or below, according to data from Outra. Of those properties, 2.489 million are privately rented.
The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe, with almost 38 per cent of homes built before 1946, according to Outra, which means they’re probably poorly insulated or lacking modern facilities.
The problem is particularly acute in London, with over 1.5 million properties failing to hit the proposed EPC rating of C.