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London Assembly calls for devolved powers to tackle private landlord exploitation

The London Assembly has backed a motion to seek devolved powers in order to improve standards of private rented accommodation.

At a meeting yesterday, the Assembly voted in favour of a motion to press London mayor Sadiq Khan to emphasise powers over the private rented sector in his devolution negotiations with the government.

Currently, individual borough councils must take responsibility for licensing landlords and enforcing landlord and letting agent conduct. The London Assembly said they do not always have the resources to do so effectively.

Sian Berry AM, who proposed the motion, said: “My recent survey of London’s renters highlighted the desperate need they feel for better standards and regulation of the private rented sector to stop them being exploited by landlords.

“Further devolution of powers is an appropriate response to this need and has already proved to be successful in Wales and Scotland. There is no reason London cannot follow these positive models to implement consistent, city-wide standards for housing.”

The text of the motion noted that Khan’s current negotiations “may not go far enough” regarding rental accommodation.

Assembly members said they would urge the mayor to arrange a meeting between his team and their counterparts in Wales and Scotland, which are being granted wider powers over rental accommodation, to learn about the benefits of this approach. They said London should then seek the same set of powers.

Currently, over 2 million Londoners live in private rented accommodation. According to housing charity Shelter, 41% of all households in the capital will live in private rented accommodation by 2025, meaning rented accommodation will be a bigger sector than owner-occupier for the first time since the 1960s.

The growth of rented accommodation in London is linked to rising house prices, with home ownership falling by 13.5 percentage points since its peak in October 2000.

Tom Copley AM, who seconded the motion, said that in an age when the number of renters is closing in on the number of homeowners, “it’s absurd that regulation remains so patchy”.

“Boroughs have shown willing but they’re lacking appropriate government funding and renters are confronted with a postcode lottery,” he added.

“Instead of forcing Londoners to put up with unreasonable letting agency fees, rogue landlords and poor standards, the government needs to give City Hall a greater hand in regulating the sector. We’ve seen it work effectively in other parts of the UK, it’s a matter of fairness that London’s renters should come to expect the same.”

The DCLG is currently consulting on proposals to expand councils’ mandatory licensing powers, meaning a greater range of rental properties will be subject to safety standards.

(Image c. Ray Wewerka)

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