Rents should be frozen in London to prevent a wave of evictions caused by Covid-19, the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, will tell the government today.
The Labour mayor wants new powers to prevent any rent increases for two years and has warned that half a million Londoners could face eviction because of arrears accrued during lockdown.
The demand comes just days before courts restart eviction proceedings which were put on hold during the lockdown. Judges will start considering a backlog of suits brought by landlords from Monday, leading to fears of a spike in homelessness. Tenants living in lockdown areas will continue to be protected.
“Without an operational vaccine, the economic fallout of Covid-19 will continue for months into the future,” said Khan. “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.”
The request for powers over rents to be devolved to City Hall appears unlikely to be approved, but officials argue that after the government took radical steps including the furlough scheme and the evictions ban, ministers should act now on rents.
They cite a five-year rent freeze announced in January by city authorities in Berlin, although that was in a bid to slow gentrification. London has 2.2 million renters and recent research from the Greater London Authority and YouGov estimated that a quarter of them had fallen behind on payments, or say they were likely to do so as a direct result of the pandemic.
Khan said: “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.”
The campaign group Generation Rent said some tenants had been hit with a rent increase after telling their landlord their income had been affected by the pandemic.
“Unwanted moves can leave struggling tenants with nowhere else to go, and contribute to the spread of coronavirus,” said the group’s director Alicia Kennedy.