Sadiq Khan calls for London rent freeze to prevent mass eviction

The Mayor of London wants Westminster to hand him the power to stop rents rising for at least two years

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on central government to let him freeze private rents in the English capital for the next two years to protect tenants from the effects of the pandemic-driven recession.

With the eviction ban set to end in a matter of days, Khan wrote to housing secretary Robert Jenrick asking for the powers as an emergency measure that would allow rent costs to fall but not rise and support those already in debt as a result of Covid-19.

It would go some way to avoiding an impending “tsunami of evictions”, the Mayor said, and would mirror action taken in Berlin to freeze rents until 2025.

Given the power to do so, Khan would immediately stop rent increases both between and within tenancies, meaning landlords could not charge new tenants a higher rent than the flat’s previous occupier.

The Mayor of London said: “More than ever, Covid-19 means that many of London’s private renters are facing a really uncertain future. 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.

“Yet at every stage of this pandemic, renters have been treated as an afterthought by the Government, with protection measures only ever rushed out at the last minute. This uncertainty is causing unnecessary anxiety and stress.

“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.

“Without an operational vaccine, the economic fallout of Covid-19 will continue for months into the future. A rent freeze is only one part of a package of measures renters urgently need from Government to ensure no one is forced out onto the streets as a result of this pandemic.”

An estimated quarter of London’s 2.2 million private renters have fallen behind on their housing costs or say they’re likely to do so as the Covid-19 crisis pushes people further into poverty – and half a million Londoners could be at risk of eviction when the ban lifts on September 20.

And as the Government’s Job Retention Scheme winds down next month, experts are warning that it could trigger a wave of redundancies across the UK having been “masking the devastation wreaked by the pandemic on jobs and the wider economy”.

The UK’s unemployment rate hit a two-year high in the three months to July, Office for National Statistics figures showed, with nearly 700,000 fewer people on company payrolls compared to March.

Alicia Kennedy, director at Ride Out Recession Alliance member organisation Generation Rent, said: “Evictions have been paused, but that hasn’t stopped some London landlords from raising the rent, which can force a tenant to leave their home.

“At Generation Rent 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. Unwanted moves can leave struggling tenants with nowhere else to go, and contribute to the spread of coronavirus.

“With the economy in recession and coronavirus cases on the rise, landlords should not be permitted to raise rents and force a tenant into an unwanted move. We’re delighted that the Mayor has adopted Generation Rent’s proposal for a freeze on rents to ensure tenants are able to stay safely in their homes for the duration of this crisis.”

The Big Issue is committed to helping protect jobs and keep people in their homes, working alongside RORA partners Shelter, Nationwide Foundation, Unilever and many more. We need your ideas too. Tell us your experiences, ideas and plans at rora@bigissue.com.