Send this man a Christmas message

Len DuvallThis is Len Duvall. He’s chair of the London Assembly Housing and Regeneration Committee. Just a week before Christmas, on Tuesday 18 December, he and the rest of the committee members will hold the last meeting of their review of London’s private rented sector. The review is meant to come up with ways of tackling the high rents, poor conditions and insecure tenancies suffered by the majority of private tenants in London. But so far, ordinary private tenants have been given little voice in the process. Given that there’s over 1.5m of us being ripped-off and screwed over, this seems like a bit of an oversight.

With other private tenants groups across the capital, we’ve decided it’s time to make sure the committee get the message that private tenants are fed up, and want real action now to deal with the problems we face.

On the morning of the meeting, we’ll be heading down to City Hall to make our presence felt. More details will be posted here soon, but in the meantime, we’re looking for people to add a message to our Christmas card to Len, to let him know how fed up we are, and demand some real action.

Please use the comment facility below to detail your experience of being a private tenant, or email it (and any pictures to include with it) to housingforthe99@gmail.com. Please let us have it by 16th December so that we can deliver it ahead of the meeting on the 18th. Thanks – and hopefully see you then!

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18 Responses to Send this man a Christmas message

  1. Nathan Whipp says:

    My landlord is charging rip-off rent. The flat is riddled with damp but she does nothing about it. And it is so cold. Greedy landlords represent the real something for nothing culture. Cap rents, not benefits. And force the landlords to provide good quality, dry, warm, housing.

    Nathan, Streatham

  2. Jenny says:

    My message for Len:

    I live in a cold damp one-bed flat which costs more than £10,000 a year. Apparently this is relatively cheap. Last year, rather than fix a leak from the flat above (which the landlady owns), she waited until the ceiling collapsed before doing anything about it. Yet I still had to pay the rent. With any other business, if you didn’t get the service you were paying for, you could refuse to pay, or at least demand a discount. And if the service you were providing was damaging your customers’ health, you’d be closed down.

    Give me a good Christmas present: control rents, require decent standards and make 2013 is a happier year for private tenants!

  3. We set up Digs, a private tenant support and information group in Hackney, because the combination of housing policies and market pressures are leaving private tenants vulnerable and desperate. Like many other boroughs across London, private landlords in Hackney no longer take people in receipt of benefit. Even if they did, tenants wouldn’t be able to find a home that was affordable. We speak to tenants every day who are being forced from their homes and communities because landlords and letting agents know then can charge extortionate rents by replacing them with wealthier tenants. The GLA have a unique opportunity to address the causes of insecurity, homelessness and desperation now effecting so many London renters.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Landlords can get away with so much and their tenants are the ones who suffer. The legal way to repair my faulty boiler & take it from the rent took 8 freezing weeks and yet if I had stopped paying my rent I would have been out within a month and homeless at Christmas. More protection for tenants in 2013!

  5. Anon says:

    @Natham why do you think the rent is a rip-off?. In order to become a landlord, to buy a proeprty that is £300k, a Landlord needs to saved up and earned £90,000 (thats for the 30% deposit that is needed on a BTL).

    if I had that money, I could buy a Ferrari with that money. So is the rent adequate compensation for a Landlord not to have access to that Ferrari???.

    You are using your landlords home. You are enjoying it. He still has a mortgage. If property prices crash. Say from £300k to £250k. The Landlord has lost £50k. The mortgage will never pay off the loan. Even after 25 years, the landlord will owe that £210k to the bank.

    Every 6 years, the house has to be refurbished, which costs money. So it cancels out the rental income for the year. Plus there are lots of legal obligation and a duty to keep the property in good order.

    When I rent out, some tenants leave properties in terrible conditions and don’t look after it. They cancel the last month’s rent, so there is no deposit. They have no incentive to look after the property. So the next tenants, has a property that was not so well looked after. It pushes up rents for all tenants. Because it costs a lot of money to put a property right. I prefer if rents were lower, so tenants can save up for a deposit to buy their own home. But people don’t get it.

    The problem at the moment, is banks not lending money to FTB which is pushing up rents.

  6. Jacky Peacock says:

    Dear Len,
    I did an informal survey of London boroughs a couple of weeks’ ago. Information is extremely hard to obtain, but I finally managed to extract the number of enforcement officers responsible for inspecting and enforcing standards in the PRS and compared this with the size of the sector in each borough (using 2011 data and we know there’s been a big increase this year). The very worst authority had only three officers to raise standards in 25,000 private tenants’ homes (that’s 8,333 for each officer!) But the others weren’t much better – the average was about 3,500 homes per enforcement officer. So it’s hardly suprising that landlords don’t think they need to worry about standards. The GLA could play a major role in raising this issue with London boroughs and calling on the Government to monitor the sector properly and to provide ring-fenced funds for this purpose, as they have for ‘Beds in Sheds’. It has always been an indictment on local authorities that their powers and duties in this area receive such low priority. It is utterly indefensible now that they can discharge their homelessness duties to the most vulnerable families by placing them in this unregulated and unpoliced housing sector. Please Len, in the spirit of Christmas, act now.

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  8. Matt S says:

    Moved into a flat in South Tottenham just off the Green Lanes last year. I found that the boiler wasn’t working – no hot water. The landlord sent some friend of his round to fix it – he didn’t fix it. It degenerated into me shutting the door on the landlord who came with his mate to “fix” it, telling him I would call the police if he tried to touch my boiler with his non-Gas Safety qualified so-called gas fitter. The landlord tried to call in the company that had serviced it under the warranty, and within minutes of opening up the boiler, they declared it unsafe under the Gas Safety act, the proper gas fitter walked out after a brief shouting match with the landlord.

    I got a proper gas fitter in and paid him to fix the boiler, then told the landlord he could deduct the money from the rent each month, or I could call in the Environmental Health, which he accepted.

    There was some kind of condensor-boiler thing in the garden, exposed to the elements, with no housing on it, and illegal pipes. The landlord eventually agreed to get a proper person in to sort it out. At every stage, the landlord popped up and tried to negotiate with the gas-fitters, saying their understanding of what sort of pipes were needed was “rubbish”, they didn’t know their job, etc.

    Then there was the problem with the damp, the lack of any kind of damp coursing and any maintenance on the front windows (frames rotting on the outside) might have had something to do with it. I can’t remember which happened first, the Environmental Health contacting my landlord or him giving me my notice as he was going to rip up the flat and damp-proof it, but it was a relief to get my notice to be honest, as the place was way too expensive anyway.

    The deposit protection scheme turned up to a meaningless, fake piece of paper. The landlord believed that because the stanadard contract referred to a deposit protection scheme (which only applied in letting and management contracts, not lets) it was somehow covered by one. I left anyway, and somehow managed to get a cheque for the full deposit balance from the landlord, probably because he had a newsagent on the high street and me and my friends would turn up there and cause trouble if the didn’t give it to me.

    The landlord had an incorrect contact address, and the phone number didnt’ work either. He said that the letting agent had put it down wrong, not that he bothered to get it corrected in the several years that he’d had his address. I was able to track him down by going into newsagents up and down that street until I found him. Most of my neighbours, I found, were already boycotting his shop, because of his obviously dodgy practices towards his tenants.

    I had to threaten the landlord with Environmental Health to get him to sort out a leak in my ceiling, dangerously close to a light fitting, caused by him not properly sealing and waterproofing the shower upstairs. It turns out he was charging my neighbours upstairs for repairs that he was obliged to carry out under the tenancy. This was probably because their English wasn’t good.

    When I went past the flat a few months after I’d left, the damp-proofing inside had been done, but the landlord had left the exterior windows on the ground floor alone, despite their rotting frames, presumably to save a bit of money.

    I’ve had relatively few problems with my new place, except that the letting agent lied and said he had sorted out with the landlord that it was “OK” for me to have cats there, despite presenting me with a standard contract to sign saying “no pets” and advising me to ignore that clause as he’d sorted it out with the landlord. He’d done no such thing. Fortunately, myself and the landlord were able to come to an arrangement. And the landlord insists on being paid cash – the only possible reason for this I can think of is so that he can fiddle it and not pay HMRC.

    Since then I’ve been active with Haringey Private Tenants Action Group, who’ve done actions at the offices of rip-off letting agents.

    Tenants need secure tenancies and rent-caps (as we used to have until 1988). The needs to be proper enforcement of the sector, not the insane free market fundamentalist free-for-all we have now.
    Matt S.

    • Lindsay says:

      I read this with my mouth wide open for the most part, this is shocking! It seems to be all to common that landlords don’t care that it is illegal and unsafe to have an untrained, unregistered person trying to fix a boiler.

  9. Anon says:

    @Jackey A single officer can deal with many complaints. Even working on 4 complaints a day, will give you 960 cases per year.

    Do you think tenants are like children? Are tenants incapable of inspecting a property?. Its simple check the bed, hot water, heating, windows, speak to the previous tenant. Has the Landlord fitted smoke alarms?. The message is simple, if the property is not up to scratch — walk away —

    People book hundred of holidays over the Internet direct with the hotel. But unlike, a hotel, a prospective tenant has the change of inspecting the property.

    Housing is ‘regulated’ and there are volumes decicated to housing law.

    HMO are have extra regulation… guess what happened when they licensed those properties. Rents shot up, it went from £40 per room to £80 per room. Did somehow, handing over £1000 for an HMO license, suddently make the same property better?

  10. ND says:

    Dear Len,
    I’d like to draw your attention to Shelter’s proposed Stable Rental Contract which is a five year contract with rent increases every year but only in line with inflation. London renters need such a contract and similar rental agreements are already common in Paris.
    For me to live somewhere with such a contract means I can put down roots in the area I live in. this means I am more likely to get involved in activities in my area, know my neighbors and I am more likely to spend my money on local businesses. For landlords it means they get a stable income and tenants who are more likely to look after the property.
    And finally Len, I would like you to consider how much private rents that rise above inflation cost the local economy of London. If renters weren’t spending up to half of their incomes on rent, they would have disposable income to spend on businesses, products and events in London and thus help create more jobs.

  11. lj cross says:

    why is housing so expensive? why are so many houses standing empty when so many families are living in hostels and b&b’s?
    please have a heart and make homes this christmas

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  15. Richard Harrod says:

    Len

    It is important that private sector rented tenants are recognised as a growing part of the housing market. Yet, those households suffer from the highest rents and the worse living conditions without any security of tenure. Private Sector Rented tenants get hit the hardest when there are welfare benefit cuts.

    In the past we have been disregarded and ignored. We need your help – now.

  16. CFPT says:

    Len – The time for reviews has ended and NOW is the time for action in the private rented sector. Our experience shows that it is not just a few “rogue landlords” – there are problems right across the sector that blight the daily lives of ALL types of private tenants.

  17. martin says:

    Me and my partner rented a flat in Streatham from Jackson’s agency. at the moment of signing the contract they did not mention a word that builders are still renovating the place. We had no choice but to move into the flat smelling of detergents, paint and other chemicals, breathing dust and in fact living with builders for another week. 6 months later our landlady gave us notice to leave. We cleaned for 2 days, landlady’s assistant inspected the property before collecting keys from us and said everything’s fine and we should get our deposit back within days. It took us almost 2 months to get it back – and we had no choice but to pay extra £60 for professional cleaning despite “everything beign OK”.
    We had no chance to force either landlady or the letting agency to release our deposit. They can keep your money forever and no one seems to have power over them.
    Further details upon request.

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