Tenants, unions and politicians back calls for a rent freeze

Tenants, unions and politicians back calls for a rent freeze

Flat Broke — As rents in UK cities continue to skyrocket, Sadiq Khan, Mick Lynch and others have joined forces to call on the Government for immediate action.

“I’ve been living very happily in Dalston for the last five years, and out of nowhere our landlord contacted us to impose a 50 percent rent increase” Liam told a crowd gathered outside of Foxtons in Hackney central, east London, last November. He continued, “Part of the reason we’re here outside Foxtons today is because, when talking about our rent increases, the landlord’s got some bullshit rent calculator off the Foxton’s website that says rents in the area are crazy high and used it as a justification to increase ours.” The crowd responds with boos.

The demonstration, organised by London Renters Union, saw action take place across the city demanding a rent freeze. The rental market in the capital has long been broken, with Huck reporting last Summer about the escalating crisis within it. Things however, have only continued to deteriorate. 

According to analysis from Ocasa, the average rent in the UK increased by 10.8 percent in the 12 months up to the end of 2022 rising from £1,060 per month to £1,175. Rents in London have increased by an eye watering 14.8 percent, meaning rents have grown from £1,752 a month to £2,011. The median take home pay in this country is around £2,205 based on a median full time salary of £33,000

Data released at the end of last year from Spare Room shows the average rent for a room in London has increased by 22 percent in the last year – now standing at £935 pcm. 

Outside Foxtons last year LRU member Danny told Huck: “Some of our members are paying 60, 70, even 80 percent of their income on rent, and this is before living costs started going up very rapidly. We’re out today demanding an emergency rent freeze as well as fundamental structural changes to the rental system and the way the people access housing in this city.” 

In the months that have passed since the demonstration, the situation has only worsened. In December 2022 LRU members reported average rent increases of almost £3,400 a year (a hike of 21 percent). Data released by housing provider Dolphin in January 2023 showed that 4 in 5 people were struggling with unaffordable housing costs. 

Many are being forced out of their homes, facing a section 21 “no fault” eviction after being unable to afford astronomical rent increases. This after the Government’s 2019 commitment to end no-fault evictions. In the last three months of last year rental evictions continued to rise.

Bekah, an LRU member, is one of those affected. “After refusing a £1200 annual rent rise in our previous house, our landlord evicted us and listed the property for £3600 more” She tells Huck:“We felt sad, angry, and like a great injustice had happened to us, but it was all completely legal. We were forced to move to a significantly more expensive house and now we are facing a rent rise once again. We are already anxious about our food shop and energy prices, and this rent rise will only add further stress. I feel very precarious right now and a rent freeze would give me some peace of mind.”

Kirsty is a teacher whose pay has not increased with inflation. After her last landlord tried to raise the rent, she had no choice but to move further away from work. “I was soon signed off sick due to the stress of moving house and the increase to my commute.” She tells Huck. “Now, only one year into our new tenancy, our landlord has asked for another £1200 in rent. I feel like I’m back to square one.”

Horror stories of price gouging, unmeetable demands to pay extortionate amounts of rent up front, or Battle Royale-like fights for flats have become the norm rather than the exception. It is clear that the rental market is deeply broken, with contagion spreading to cities across the country. The average rent in Manchester has increased by £656 per month since June 2022, now standing at £1,600 per month (up from £944).

The situation is clearly untenable, and it’s why today London Renters Union, backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and major unions like the RMT have released an open letter calling on Housing Secretary Michael Gove to freeze rents. The letter which is also signed by Green Party co-leaders and Liverpool City region Mayor has called on Gove to implement a Scotland style rent freeze and eviction ban to try to end the crisis. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London’s private renters are facing a triple whammy with rising rents, bills, and the cost of household essentials putting a major strain on their finances. That’s why I’ve repeatedly called on the Government to implement an immediate rent freeze in the capital, as has been done in Scotland, and give me the power to introduce a system of rent controls that works for London. My message to Ministers is simple and shared by others right across the country: implement your long-promised renters reform legislation and take action now to make rents more affordable.”

An LRU spokesperson told Huck this morning: “Millions are being squeezed by falling wages and rising rents. The government has the power to protect people from unaffordable rent rises, but it is choosing instead to preside over a Wild West rental market that is punishing the people who kept the country going through the pandemic. A rent freeze now is the only way to address the scale and urgency of the crisis, and would represent a step towards a stronger housing system that meets everyone’s needs.”

LRU has created a tool for people to write to their MPs in support of the public call.

Foxtons declined to comment.

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