The Independent London Newspaper


MP kick-starts bill for renters

Laurie Shaw of Islington Private Tenants

Published: 9 August, 2013

MP Jeremy Corbyn will speak at a public meeting at the Town Hall next month as part of an effort to kick-start plans for his private member’s bill to control Britain’s private housing “nightmare”.

The meeting, on the evening of Tuesday, September 10, is being organised by the newly formed Islington Private Tenants group.

Islington North MP Mr Corbyn, who announced plans for his bill early this year, hopes that it can finally be debated in the Commons on October 22.

He said: “The bill is designed to bring some protection and some justice to tenants forced to privately rent with no security of tenure and no proper regulation of letting agents.”

American-born Laurie Shaw, a freelance writer based in Islington, and a founder member of Islington Private Tenants, said there was far more protection for renters in New York than there is in London.

“Landlords don’t have the same powers to evict in New York as they do in London,” she said.

“Here there is little regulation, particularly over rents. Not only do we pay sky-high rents here but also we are not getting good value for our money. We have no enforcible rights.”

People in private housing pay three times more rent than those in council homes in London, according to Mr Corbyn. He warned that the government’s policy of capping benefits was “leading to social cleansing” in high-priced Islington, with people no longer able to afford to live in the borough.

Not since the 1970s has housing, or the lack of it, been such an urgent issue, particularly in Islington, where more than a third of residents rent privately.

Private landlords can charge more than £1,000 a month for a one-bed flat and £2,000 or more for two-bedroom accommodation.

Mr Corbyn expects to get some cross-party support for his bill, particularly from the Lib Dems.

The bill proposes strict regulation of letting agencies and will stop unreasonable with­holding of deposits.

The Town Hall’s Labour housing chief, Councillor James Murray, has welcomed the bill and said that the council is on target to provide 2,000 new homes by 2015.

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Private Rent Accommodation

Really pleased that this is high on the agenda for at least one Labour MP.
There are too many Section 21 evictions happening from private landlords/letting agents to people who are on benefits. Most for no other reason than the landlords want to sell the property, or, feel that they have outgrown the tenant and want a professional, working person in their property. Councils fall short on duty of care through unattainable points systems that do not support those tenants who have no rent arrears, medical support needs, children, disabilities. The solution is to ride out the eviction and wait for the bailiffs before any form of assistance is to be considered and even then the tenant may still find themselves on the streets or indeed in the local parks as their place of residence. Disgraceful!

Council leaseholders

Council leaseholders, who are subletting and acting as private landlords, can also charge £1,000 and £2,000 a month for one-/two-bed flats respectively. Yet still the unqualified right-to-buy (RTB) is backed by Labour, both nationally and locally.

Hope this issue of leaseholder sub-letting will be raised at next month's meeting.

Meg Howarth

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