Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised to do so several months ago.
With 36 per cent of Islington households now living in private rented homes, Labour councillors made clear they are on the side of those who are finding it harder to afford to live in the borough, in part due to soaring rents and unscrupulous landlords and letting agents.
One issue that many private tenants face is being unexpectedly hit with letting fees. On average, they pay between £200 and £500 in letting fees, with agents inventing ridiculous excuses such as signing a form or moving furniture around a room. Worryingly, low-income tenants, who are already struggling to get by, are charged even higher fees. Currently, renters have no legal right to dispute these charges and usually are not in a position to 'shop elsewhere'.
This Labour council is standing up for private renters. It has been responsible for two thirds of total fines issued by London councils to rogue landlords since new enforcement measures were introduced in 2015. It has also fined letting agents over £50,000 for treating tenants unfairly and introduced an additional licensing scheme for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road, protecting over 3,500 tenants. In 2014 it launched London’s first not-for-profit lettings agency where tenants do not have to pay tenancy fees. In spite of these efforts to protect renters, Islington Labour councillors' powers are limited by law.
The Tory Government previously promised to ban letting fees but they are yet to announce a time line for when the draft Tenants' Fees Bill, which would make this law, will be debated in Parliament. Islington Labour councillors are calling on them to act on this yet-to-materialise promise and support Labour's campaign to introduce extra protections for private renters; including introducing a cap on rent rises, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for tenants. The 2017 Labour manifesto also pledged to grant the Mayor of London the power to give London renters additional security to tackle the particular pressures in the capital.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “This Labour-led Council is standing up for the many, not the few, and I encourage renters living in Islington who believe they are being mistreated by their landlord or letting agency to contact the Council housing team or their local councillors. The Leader of the Council and I will be writing to the Housing Minister to call on him to ban rip-off letting fees, which they previously promised to do, and support Labour’s calls for extra protections for private renters as soon as possible."
For more information on how the Council supports private renters or to report a landlord or letting agency, visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/housing/private-sector-housing/private-rented-accommodation
Pictured - Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development