Rents could be frozen for two years to avoid 500,000 evictions in London

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Rents in London should be frozen for two years to avoid a surge in evictions, the capital’s Mayor has warned. 

Sadiq Khan is to seek new powers to prevent rent rises amid fears that there could be as many as 500,000 evictions, with judges set to begin looking at proceedings from Monday. 

The Labour Mayor wants to combat rising arrears built up during lockdown but is unlikely to be given powers by the Government to enforce a rent freeze. 

Mr Khan said: ‘More than ever, Covid-19 means that many of London’s private renters are facing a really uncertain future. More likely to be in lower-paid and insecure work, 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.

‘I’m today calling on ministers to give me the powers to stop rents rising in the capital for as long as this virus is with us, to give London’s 2.2 million renters more financial security. 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.’

New York, Paris, Copenhagen and various other cities also have varying forms of rent caps. 

And last year Green Party leader Sian Berry, who is standing against Mr Khan in the delayed mayoral election, told that she backed a ‘radical rent cap’.

Mr Khan, who has also previously backed a form of rent caps, added: ‘Without an operational vaccine, the economic fallout of Covid-19 will continue for months into the future.

‘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 appears unlikely to be granted, though officials highlight other radical steps taken during the pandemic, like furlough and an eviction ban, which finishes this week, making it more ‘realistic’.

Recent research from the Greater London Authority and YouGov estimated that a quarter of renters have fallen behind on payments, or say they are likely to do so as a direct result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Rent in the capital rose 1.2% in London in 2019, and stood at an average of £1,450 a month earlier this year – more than double the median rent for England, Office for National Statistics figures showed.

Alicia Kennedy, Director at Generation Rent, said: ‘We’ve heard from tenants who have been hit with a rent increase after telling their landlord that their income has been affected by the pandemic.

‘Unwanted moves can leave struggling tenants with nowhere else to go, and contribute to the spread of coronavirus.’

She added that there should be moves to stop landlords raising rent and forcing tenants into unwanted moves.

Mr Khan is also calling for the Government to introduce Grants to allow renters to stay in their homes and clear arrears, and scrapping so called ‘no fault’ evictions. 

The National Residential Landlords Association quickly came out against the proposal.

Policy Director Chris Norris said: ‘Rent controls would be a disaster for anyone looking for somewhere to rent.’ 

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