London rents should be frozen for two years to help tenants struggling with the impact of coronavirus, the Mayor of London has said.
Sadiq Khan said renters have been “treated as an afterthought” during the Covid-19 outbreak, despite their vulnerability in an economic downturn.
The Government banned evictions at the peak of the virus and last month extended that protection and increased notice periods to six months.
Ministers said this will protect tenants over winter – but City Hall research suggests up to 500,000 of the city’s 2.2 million renters could be at risk of losing their homes.
With eviction proceedings set to resume from 20 September and the furlough scheme winding up at the end of the month, there is even more pressure on renters, the Mayor said.
Mr Khan has today written to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick urging him to consider a rent freeze given the “uncertain future” tenants face.
“More likely to be in lower-paid and insecure work, the end of the furlough scheme means even more renters in the capital are now at risk of pay cuts or losing their job,” he said.
The Mayor has previously called on the Government to give him the power to control rents, making it a key pledge in his re-election campaign.
London tenants are paying 12% more than they were ten years ago in real terms, according to property company Bricks & Logic.
But Conservatives say rent controls have consistently failed where they have been implemented, and the Mayor should focus on building more houses.
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It comes after Berlin announced a five-year rent freeze prior to the pandemic, and with New York halting price rises for almost a million rent-controlled flats in response to the virus.
“If Berlin can freeze rents for five years, there’s no reason London shouldn’t be able to freeze rents for two years in these extraordinary times,” Mr Khan said.
Alicia Kennedy, director of tenants’ charity Generation Rent, warned that even while evictions have been banned, some people have been forced to leave their homes.
“We’ve heard from tenants who have been hit with a rent increase after telling their landlord that their income has been affected by the pandemic,” she said.
“Unwanted moves can leave struggling tenants with nowhere else to go, and contribute to the spread of coronavirus.”
A spokesperson for the Government said ministers have taken “unprecedented action” to support renters by banning evictions and helping pay workers’ salaries through the furlough scheme.
“We have now gone further by changing the law to increase notice periods to six months to help keep people in their homes over the winter months and introducing a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions,” they said.
“Together, these measures strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice.”
Rent controls could “drive responsible landlords out” of the market, reduce investment in good quality homes and “ultimately push rents up,” they warned.
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