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London Needs a Living Rent and an end for Arbitrary Rent Hike

The mindless rental hikes in London by private house owners have triggered appeals for action. The social media are replete with such messages. Darren Johnson, a Green Party member in the London Assembly made a moving appeal to the London Mayor to protect Londoners and not be seen as a saviour of property investors.

In a tweet from Camden, Darren Johnson narrated a landlord’s mindless action in hiking the rent up a three bed flat by 40 per cent. This has become a routine affair for private tenants in London to hike the rent as per their wishes.

Miliband’s Offer

The anxiety of Londoners had a partial endorsement by Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband’s when he called for a 1970s-style rent controls. It was received with much relief and expectation. The Labour leader has opened a new war on the ‘cost of living crisis’ by pledging to cap rent rises in the private sector.

He has asked landlords to go for three-year tenancy agreements with moderate annual increases each year. Labour hopes, such a move would help the 9 million renters in the UK and claimed it has been backed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. But the RICS hastily retracted, saying that arbitrary caps are not a solution to house crisis.

Rent Control Needed

Miliband’s proclamations and tweets of Darren Johnson point to the need to have some sort of brakes on rent rises to prevent increase of rent above inflation and save the average private tenant household £2,796 in the two years since Boris Johnson was re-elected in 2012.

The legislator offered a ‘living rent calculator’ to show how modest rent control can make a change in the distressed life of renters. The living rent idea was alive for many years.

Johnson called for a 5 year tenancy to be renewed at the end if a tenant wanted to stay there. No landlord should turf out a renter unless he wanted to personally move in or sell the property.

Flats to rent in london have landlords looking to increase rent each year. The demand is to calibrate such increases fair and be capped at inflation, or linked with the rise in local wages or reasonable index.  In London, majority of the tenants feel the rents are high.

Social Tenants

Even living rent will not be a panacea for all problems, Johnson argued.  What is actually required is a Land value taxation to control profiteering by speculators and buy-to-let investors who are only driving up the property prices and rents.

The preventive action to control the spiraling of rents is, keeping long-term empty homes punishable and carrying a massive financial burden for the rich investors than using as a safety deposit box. Johnson urged the London Mayor to give priority to building social housing London and refurbish the existing stock of homes and put a brake to the trend of demolishing them.

A living rent control will become a temporary breather to stop things from sliding to the worse and help people to have a place to stay. This is most essential for parents, who have children studying in local schools and young Londoners who are trying to spread roots in the community.

But the tweet regretted that the Mayor is not taking the tenants seriously.  Tenants are facing many injustices–getting evicted for complaining about dampness, forced out with rent hikes, paying rip-off agency fees, and living in cupboards and sofas.

So long as the Mayor refuses to entertain even a modest idea like a living rent, younger Londoners can only stay disillusioned. It is time the Mayor started listening and took proactive steps to save Londoners.

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