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Blog: Time to repair ramshackle renting

Blog: Time to repair ramshackle renting

The London Rental Standard would help tenants to report problems without fear of eviction, says Tom McCarthy, Shelter’s Campaigns Officer.

Damp. Mould. Leaks. Three issues I’ve had to live with as a private renter. And I know many others who’ve gone through similar hassle and stress – and much worse.

Unfortunately, London is full of homes let out in awful conditions. Sometimes the landlord or letting agent deals with a problem straight away. That’s brilliant, it’s how the relationship should work.

But many renters aren’t so lucky. Here are three nightmare stories Shelter has uncovered recently:

‘One letting agent failed to acknowledge my complaints about severe rising damp in my basement flat. I was unable to use my bedroom for the whole six months I lived there, as the conditions were so bad that I had to sleep on the settee.’ - Jim

‘I was in my flat for two weeks and started noticing mould on all my wooden furniture. My books started to warp from damp. The walls started to go black from where the evidence of damp had clearly been painted over to hide it. Four weeks in I noticed cockroaches… it is now six weeks since I left and [there’s] no [sign of my] deposit.’ - Francine

‘I had no working oven and the hot water boiler broke within the first month of moving in. I contacted the agent and continued doing so, each time with no success…. my appliances were never fixed.’ - Tamsin

No other industry could get away with this level of service. If a restaurant did the same it would be shut down. Or sued.

So why is it OK when it comes to renting, where consumers often have little choice or control over where they end up?

The short answer is: it’s not. But with such intense competition in London, letting agents and rogue landlords across the capital can (and do) get away with it.

And things are made worse because renters know so little about their rights, and find it hard to take action even when they do. Many fear eviction if they complain. Others, sick of banging their head against a brick wall, just wait to move out. Either way, they’re stuck living in dreadful conditions.

This is why the Mayor needs to get a grip on renting in the capital. Boris Johnson wants to introduce the London Rental Standard, a quality mark scheme for landlords and letting agents in the capital.

I’d like to make sure this Standard is only given to landlords and letting agents who let out their properties in good condition and are responsive to the needs of those living there.

I agree with Shelter that no properties let out by an accredited London Rental Standard landlord or letting agent should contain Category 1 hazards. And anyone who wants to be accredited must include a timetable for repairs within the tenancy agreement, and a commitment to fix major problems quickly.

This would make sure renters knew who was responsible for repairs and how long they should take. But, more importantly, it would mean they could report problems without fear of eviction.

Right now, the Mayor is asking for our views on what the London Rental Standard should look like. If you’d like to have your say on redesigning London’s renting, then get involved in Shelter’s Homes for London campaign.

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