Cllr Paul Gadsby, Cabinet Member for Housing, blogs on Lambeth’s plans to improve conditions for renters in the private rented sector…
Lambeth has launched a new consultation asking the borough’s renters about their experiences in the borough and most importantly what support, help and policies they want from their council.
Lambeth’s housing sector is facing incredible pressures, like many other parts of the country. House prices have rocketed to a level that puts homeownership well beyond the reach of most families. The Tories, ably supported for a number of years by their close friends the Liberal Democrats, with breathtaking levels of complacency have neglected council house building by starving boroughs like Lambeth of funds. This negligence has been matched only by the Government’s indifference to private renters, who they have left at the mercy of rising rents and a largely unregulated market where a minority of bad landlords can inflict poor standards on their occupants.
These conditions for renters cannot be ignored. A recent study by Lambeth last year has shown that a third of the borough’s dwellings are rented out privately. In some areas like Brixton, Clapham and Stockwell, the figure is higher.
But while the government remains indifferent, Lambeth Labour wants to address these concerns. And we have already started to deliver. Cllr Anna Birley was appointed as the borough’s first private rented sector (PRS) lead in May to give the council a clear focus on improving the lives of renters. We are taking a tougher line with rogue landlords; recruiting more enforcement officers and handing out a £10,000 fine in one particularly bad case in Brixton. A new regulatory system for flat-shares with five or more people has also been introduced and at our last council meeting we passed a motion calling on the government to get rid of section 21, which allows landlords to rapidly evict tenants without reason.
Most Lambeth landlords in my experience, as someone who rented in the borough for more than ten years, do care about those in their properties and support them. But we cannot allow a minority to get away with abusing the rights of tenants.
While these measures are a good first step, we need our renters to help us shape the future of the council’s policies and support package for renters. That is why we are asking for more information from people who rent privately in Lambeth – so we can understand the main challenges that they face. Is it rising rents? Poor quality accommodation? A lack of support and information on how to address their issues? From this survey, as well as consultation with key stakeholders, we will shape up a PRS charter that will not only lay out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, but also delivers policies that help address the key concerns of renters.
So please do fill in the survey, or leave a comment on this blog with your views and ideas for the future.