Cllr Paul Gadsby is the Cabinet Member for Housing and a councillor in Vassall ward.
If you walk down any street in Lambeth, how many would you guess are privately rented?
I asked this at a recent meeting with local residents and got a fair spread of answers. Most thought it was somewhere between 10% and 20%, while a few tentatively went as high as a quarter. One person even thought that while there were “renters in Lambeth” there “probably weren’t that many or any around here”. No one got the bullseye which is that an estimated third of all properties in Lambeth are now privately rented, and in some areas – Clapham, Stockwell, parts of Norwood and Streatham – that figure is likely to be a lot higher.
This explosion in the size of the private rented sector (PRS) is one of the reasons that Lambeth is launching a new consultation asking for renters and landlords views on the possibility of the borough introducing more “licensing” of the borough’s PRS homes. Legally, the council can already do this for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) which are properties of five or more people, not living as a single household – usually flatshares. For these properties a landlord must prove to the council that the home is safe, secure and of a good standard for the tenants (you can read more about what this involves here).
Already around a 1,000 of these properties are licensed in Lambeth and many good landlords proactively contact the council before converting their homes into a HMO, which also gets them a discount on the license fee from the council (you can check if your property is licensed here and contact us if not here).
Licensing is an effective way for everyone to be sure that homes are fit for tenants. Unfortunately the government, wrongly in my view, places restrictions on how far councils can go in licensing and can with large schemes actually block them from being introduced. But despite this, Lambeth Labour is committed to raising standards for renters, even if the Tories at the moment don’t seem to care about this part of our community. There are many good landlords in Lambeth which is why we want their views as well, but we do need to ensure that all renters are treated with respect. We have handed out big fines to rogue landlords, we’ve named and shamed them, and we’ve expanded our team working in this area. We have been very clear that we think unfair evictions should be ended and were backing Sadiq Khan’s call for the idea of rent controls for to be considered as a way of stopping the crushing financial cost that many tenants face.
Now it is up to Lambeth residents to tell us whether more licensing is what they want. The survey contains questions about everyday life in the rented sector: standards, costs and the local area. The results will help us judge if a licensing scheme is needed and where it should be focused. So please do take the time to fill in this survey and take your opportunity to shape the future of renting in Lambeth.
Cllr Paul Gadsby