Sadiq Khan: ‘Scandal’ as billions paid in rent for bad housing

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The City Hall research found £9bn is spent nationally in rent on non-decent homes, with £3.5bn recorded in London alone.

Billions of pounds in rent and housing benefit is being spent in London on homes riddled with issues such as damp and mould, new City Hall analysis has revealed.

The research, which investigated money spent on “non-decent” homes in England, found London to be the worst-affected region, with Yorkshire and the Humber coming in second.

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In total, landlords in the capital letting privately-rented properties which pose a risk to residents’ health or life, are in a bad state of repair, are cold or lack modern facilities, rake in £3.5bn a year, £500m of which comes from housing benefit. Across the country, the total was £9bn a year, with £1.6bn from housing benefit.

The analysis found there to be around 180,000 such homes in London, with the mayor calling on the national government to do more to tackle the issue.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “We are building a record number of new affordable homes in London, but we need to see national action to support renters. 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.”

Mr Khan added he wants to see the government introduce the Renters Reform Bill, provide further funding for private sector enforcement teams in each borough, and increase fines for landlords who break the rules.

The City Hall data showed more money was spent in rent in London on non-decent homes than anywhere else in England. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.The City Hall data showed more money was spent in rent in London on non-decent homes than anywhere else in England. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.
The City Hall data showed more money was spent in rent in London on non-decent homes than anywhere else in England. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images. | AFP via Getty Images

Dan Wilson, acting director at Generation Rent, reiterated the mayor’s call to push through the Renters Reform Bill increasing renters’ rights.

“It is an outrage that not only can private landlords provide worse accommodation than social landlords, but they get paid more for it,” he said.

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“Increasing reliance on the private sector to provide housing has resulted in a higher bill for the public purse with nothing to show for it but poorer living standards.

“The government has an opportunity with the upcoming Renters Reform Bill to give private renters higher expectations of their landlord, and introduce much tougher penalties for landlords who fall short of the Decent Homes Standard.”

Sadiq Khan described the money spent on sub-standard homes as a “scandal”. Credit: Greater London Authority.Sadiq Khan described the money spent on sub-standard homes as a “scandal”. Credit: Greater London Authority.
Sadiq Khan described the money spent on sub-standard homes as a “scandal”. Credit: Greater London Authority. | Greater London Authority

Liam Miller, spokesperson for London Renters Union, said it is “outrageous” that while “we haemorrhage social homes year on year…private landlords are handed billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money for dangerous and poor-quality housing”.

He added: “The housing benefit bill has ballooned over recent decades as landlords hike rents and maximise profits, but renters are not seeing the benefit of this spending. Many relying on housing benefit to meet extortionate market rents live in poverty and fear speaking out against dangerous conditions for fear of retaliatory eviction.

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“At this point, housing benefit is effectively a free handout to private landlords, and public money would be better spent increasing the stock of social and council homes.”

The analysis follows research carried out by the think-tank Resolution Foundation, which found Londoners are more likely to live in poor quality housing than any other region in the UK, with 16% of respondents living in such conditions.

The government’s response

A department for levelling up, housing and communities (DLUHC) spokesperson 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.

“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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