London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called for rents to be frozen within the capital in order to prevent a spike in evictions due to the coronavirus crisis.
Khan is pushing for new powers to block rent from increasing for the next two years. He warns that 500,000 people in London could potentially face eviction due to debts accrued during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Eviction proceedings were put on hold during the lockdown, but courts will restart proceedings within a few days.
From Monday, judges will begin to examine the backlog of cases from landlords, which has led to concerns that a wave of people may suddenly find themselves homeless.
Those living in areas still under lockdown will continue to be protected, for now.
“Without an operational vaccine, the economic fallout of Covid-19 will continue for months into the future,” Khan said. “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.”
It is unlikely that powers over rents will be devolved to City Hall. However, given that ministers took drastic action with the evictions ban and furlough scheme, officials are arguing that the government should take similar action now on rents.
Recent research carried out by YouGov and the Greater London Authority estimate that almost 25% of London’s 2.2million renters have currently fallen behind on their rent payments, or are likely to do so due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures.
“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,” said Khan.
According to pressure group Generation Rent, some tenants who notified their landlords that their income had been affected by the pandemic found themselves facing a rent increase.
Alicia Kennedy, Generation Rent’s director, warned: “Unwanted moves can leave struggling tenants with nowhere else to go, and contribute to the spread of coronavirus.”
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