With candidates for London Mayor starting to set out their pledges, we reveal that half of London’s boroughs did not fine any landlords for letting out unsafe homes in the past year.
The winner of the mayoral election could step up the fight against criminal landlords overnight by letting tenants check online if their home needs and has a licence. An estimated 130,000 private rented homes in London do not have the correct licence, making 1 in 8 private renters eligible for a refund of rent. Those are good odds.
In the year to 26 February, the Greater London Authority’s website recorded 292 fines issued by 17 London boroughs, totalling £1.04 million. But this is down on the previous 12 months, when landlords were fined £1.66 million for 433 offences.
- Camden has been the most successful council in taking action against criminal landlords over the past two years, overseeing more than £750,000 in fines.
- In the past year, other leading councils Newham, Brent, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest have seen fines fall by more than half, while Westminster, Hounslow and Haringey have more than doubled theirs.
- In the last year 15 councils did not record a single fine on the GLA rogue landlord database. Nine councils did not prosecute or issue a civil penalty to a single landlord in the last two years: Bexley, Bromley, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston, Lewisham, Merton and Sutton.
In 130 of the 292 cases recorded in the last 12 months, the tenant would have been entitled to reclaim up to 12 months’ rent from the landlord through a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) because their landlord had failed to either obtain a licence or make improvements to the property ordered by the council. But, according to separate data obtained by Generation Rent through Freedom of Information requests, just six councils helped renters apply for RROs in 2018-19, with a total of 20 tenants getting assistance.
Of the 32 London Boroughs, Generation Rent has found that 28 allow tenants to check the licence status of their home online. Southwark, Sutton, Merton and Bromley do not publish registers of their licensed properties.
Laws to keep our homes safe only mean anything if they are enforced, and if landlords understand the consequences of cutting corners. Despite squalid conditions facing many of London’s renters, councils have a very mixed record on bringing the landlords responsible to justice.
The Mayor of London doesn't have a lot of powers, but one thing he or she can do is make information available in one place to help councils and tenants enforce existing laws. We are calling on the next Mayor to bring all councils’ landlord licensing data together on the City Hall website and give tenants an easy-to-use tool to check if their landlord has the right licence, and, if they’re not, advice on how to claim back their rent. Given how many landlords are estimated to be breaking the law, this could make a huge difference to raising standards and driving out the criminals.
As part of our blueprint for fixing the capital’s renting crisis, launched today, we are also calling for the Mayor to develop a skills strategy to equip councils with the expertise to inspect and take appropriate action against negligent landlords, and to demand powers to create a London-wide register of renter property.
Help us put renting on the agenda at this election - join our campaign.
This research was reported in the Evening Standard.
A summary of criminal convictions, civil penalties, fines, Rent Repayment Order activity by each London council - plus links to their licensing registers so you can check if yours is on there - is available here.
The sources of the data were Freedom of Information requests to each council and the Greater London Authority Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker.
The 123 RRO offences recorded in the checker data are:
- Continuing to rent out a property when the council has instructed it is unsafe to do so x 7
- Evicting the tenant without meeting the rules of eviction, or bothering or threatening the tenant x 1
- Failing to apply and secure the appropriate licence for a property (Section 72 relating to Houses of Multiple Occupation) x 90
- Failing to carry out improvements to the property when instructed to do so by the council x 4
- Failing to obtain the correct property licence (Section 95 relating to non-HMOs subject to selective licensing) x 28
In 2019, London Property Licensing found 130,000 unlicensed properties in London, out of 310,000 properties that require a licence. The most recent English Housing Survey records 964,000 private rented homes in the capital. This indicates that one in eight (13%) private renters in London could be eligible for an RRO.
Generation Rent is launching A Plan for London's renters, calling on the mayoral candidates to adopt the following policies:
In the Mayor’s existing power:
- commit to building a minimum of 60,000 new homes at London Affordable Rent
- develop City Hall’s Rogue Landlord Checker to ensure it continues to deter criminal landlords and drive up standards
- give private renters a vote on decisions, such as estate regeneration, that directly affect their housing
More powers needed:
- build the evidence base and develop the case for measures that will sustainably bring rents down to 30% of incomes and lead a campaign for the Government to devolve the powers the GLA needs to implement them
- take urgent action to clamp down on the unregulated holiday let market and ensure homes are available for those who need them
- call on Government to devolve powers which would allow the creation of a London-wide register of all rented properties
- take an active lead on campaigning for the money councils need from Central Government to keep renters in London safe
- call on the Government to introduce open-ended tenancies that offer renters protection from eviction