Anyone who depends on benefits for some or all of their income or who subsists on low wages or fluctuating income faces an uphill struggle to find or retain accommodation in the private rented sector in a borough with the highest average rents in outer London and where most private landlords will not accept tenants who need support from housing benefit to pay their rent. We have focussed on identifying the main problems and how to solve them. In 2016 the Government invited comments on their proposals for the type of offences committed by rogue landlords that should enable local authorities to apply for them to be banned from letting properties in future. We submitted a Rogue Landlord Report identifying the types of offence that we think should lead to landlords being banned from letting properties, with examples from the experience of our clients, and added examples of other types of mistreatment by private landlords that we consider should be made illegal. Recently the Mayor of London’s office have announced their intention to work with London boroughs to establish a London-wide database of Rogue Landlords in an effort to prevent these landlords from moving their lettings business from one borough to another without tenants being able to check their suitability to operate as landlords on their own local authority’s rogue landlord database.
Then in 2017, we produced a report with recommendations on how to reduce the main obstacles to private renting for tenants on low incomes and carried out a survey of the attitudes of letting agents operating in the borough to accepting tenants who need the support of Housing benefit to pay the rent. We shared the analysis and recommendations from both reports with the Council’s senior management and our local MPs as well as colleagues in Citizens Advice nationally and in other areas of London and other local organisations that have clients on low incomes. This research also provided the basis for our detailed response to the Council’s consultation in February 2018 on their new Housing and Homelessness Strategy.