Landlords earning billions renting ‘non-decent’ homes

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan described the amount of taxpayer money spent on sub-par homes as a “scandal”

By Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Almost £3.5 billion is being paid to landlords letting out homes of a non-decent standard in London, City Hall figures have revealed.

Mayor Sadiq Khan branded it a “scandal” that so much money is lining the pockets of private landlords renting dangerous, cold or dilapidated homes, especially when roughly half a billion of that amount is effectively being paid for by the taxpayer.

Some £493 million of the rent paid to landlords of non-decent properties in the capital comes from housing benefit, according to City Hall’s new analysis.

The 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.

Mr Khan said the Government needed to take “national action to support renters”, including giving him the power to impose a rent freeze. A Government spokesman rejected the demand, saying that the evidence shows private sector rent controls do not work.

Commenting on City Hall’s findings, the Mayor 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.

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“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.”

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.”

Although London has the most non-decent properties of any English region, and is paying the most for them, City Hall’s analysis also looked at the issue in other parts of the country.

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.

After London, the second worst-affected individual region is Yorkshire and the Humber, where landlords are receiving nearly £1 billion in rent from non-decent homes, followed by the South West on almost £900 million.

Responding to the Mayor’s comments, a spokesman at 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.”

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