Rodents, damp and collapsed bathrooms – Londoners reveal their ‘bad landlord’ experiences

Sian Berry
Surveying the scene: Sian Berry peers in the window of a letting agent. Photograph: Sian Berry

Private renters across the capital have described their personal battles with ‘bad landlords’ in response to a survey by Green London Assembly Member Sian Berry.

The Big Renters Survey questioned 1,530 people who have rented in London in the past three years and found that 43 per cent have struggled to afford a rent increase, and seven out of ten have suffered from unfinished repairs.

Sixty-eight per cent of those surveyed offered up additional information about their worst experiences.

Matt from Brixton claims letting agents are more likely to respond to the “threat of complaints rather than a polite request”.

He said: “I have had to live with rodents, damp and mould, leaking, a bathroom that had fallen in, garden flooding, plaster coming off the walls and exposing the brickwork, and serious structural issues, despite repeatedly requesting repairs.”

Lori, who lives in Islington, commented: “Both of the last two houses I lived in had big damp problems in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Both times the agent’s solution was to redecorate – essentially concealing the problem and not solving it.

“The first one took a long time to sort out. The second one was sorted quickly but the problem returned within the two years I stayed there.”

Ms Berry’s report on the survey’s findings, ‘What are London’s renters thinking?’, also revealed that renters across North London spend an average of 44 per cent of their take-home pay on rent.

One anonymous respondent said: “We need rent caps in London. Landlords are lining their pockets at the expense of people who have no alternative but to pay the majority of their monthly wages straight to people who are getting rich off our labour without lifting a finger to address any housing issues.”

Nearly six out of ten renters said they would be prepared to pitch in a small fee to join a London-wide organisation that would help fix these problems.

Ms Berry said: “As a renter in London for nearly 20 years, it’s important to me that I keep bringing the voices of London’s 2.3 million private renters into City Hall. In this report I’m recommending that the Mayor stands up for London’s private renters and supports them in standing up for themselves.

“The willingness of renters to pay a small fee to join a renters’ organisation is very significant, as it means such a group could become self-sustaining once it has been set up.

“The Mayor should look seriously at providing practical help such as office space and seed funding to help found an independent London-wide organisation to represent renters in our city.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced in September that he is to launch a ‘London Living Rent’ policy to provide homes with rents based on a third of the average household income in each borough.

He also made a manifesto promise to set up a landlord licensing scheme to name and shame bad landlords and promote good ones.

Phil from Southwark, another respondent to Berry’s survey, supports the idea. He said: “It would be good to have a register of decent landlords because renting in London was just a lottery as to whether I would get a good landlord or not.

“Other friends I know who moved to London at the same time as me were not so lucky.”

The Mayor of London’s office is yet to respond to a request for comment.

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