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Written by rosalind renshaw

Controversy has been ignited after Labour’s mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone declared all-out war on letting agents in London.

If elected in May, he will establish a London-wide, not-for-profit lettings agency, paid for by the public purse, and to be run by the Mayor’s office. Although a handful of much smaller local authorities do run lettings agency operations, none comes close to what Livingstone is proposing, with concerns that other large metropolitan authorities could follow.

Castigating agents across London, he called for rent controls and widespread intervention in the sector, including licensing.

Speaking to the Institute for Policy Research, Livingstone said: “We must actually intervene into the private rented sector.”

Livingstone said that no tenant in the private rented sector should have to pay more than one third of their wage in rent.

He went on: “What London needs is a London-wide non-profit lettings agency. So I can announce today that I will work with other stakeholders to establish one that can start to make a change in the private rented sector for the better.

“It will put good tenants in touch with good landlords across the spectrum of private renting so that both can benefit from security of tenure and reduce the costs of letting.”

He said the new agency would get to grips with the problem of rogue landlords and “tackle a series of issues on accreditation, inspection and enforcement, licensing and energy efficiency, as well as tenants’ deposits protection”.
He went on: “I want to end the churn-and-burn approach of some of the private letting agents, so I will be tackling abuses in this area.
“Through this work we will challenge the scandal of rip-off agency fees, horrific standards and the daily experience of disputes over deposits in the private rented sector.”

He vowed: “In the coming weeks I will set out more detail of how this new arm of the Mayor’s role will work.”

But what is Boris’s agenda? And what does the industry think? For more on this, see the next two stories.


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    In my opinion, many of the barmy ideas from Ken are coming from Shelter. I wonder, how many letting agents give charity funds to Shelter?

    Shelter have got their claws into him (I say this because Ken's campaign is similar to Shelters).

    Ken has failed to speak to Landlords. He has failed to understand Landlords are ordinary people. Many have ordinary jobs. I spoke to a guy who worked B&Q, who was a landlord.

    I just feel many of the comments by Ken are smear campaigns agaist Landlords and Letting Agents. They are unfair.

    Newham COuncil (Olympic Borough) are working towards licensing all private rental properties.

    Ken said he wanted to LICENSE ALL RENTAL PROPERITIES IN LONDON (to follow Newham's example!).

    • 05 April 2012 15:12 PM
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    We do not set rents, landlords set rents.

    The reason [London] rents are so high is that landlords use the unbelievably high LHA rates, set by Kens Buddies whilst in power, as a marker.

    Landlords believe if an unemployed person can pay £230 per week then surely an employed person can afford £250 per week. Unfortunately in this country, as a direct result of Kens cronies policy's, working people cannot afford to pay the same rents that their taxes are used to pay for HB claimants.

    Ken has said nothing about how he intends to protect Landlords investments from rouge tenants, or how he is going to compensate landlords when HB claimants hang on to the first 8 weeks rent [currently councils have a 'no prosecution policy' for this criminal act].

    Ken is treating hard working wealth creating entrepreneurs who invest in the property sector as rouges and criminals, whilst all tenants as disenfranchised angels. We in the industry know better how many of us have seen excatley what many tenants do to our clients properties, the damage, malevolence , lies, theft and aggression. Then walk away and the landlord has to pick up the bill and in many cases sell to avoid bankruptcy. Or does a level playing field mean tenants rights only Ken?

    Then the non profit bit, this is the man who changed the rules so when he lost the last Mayoral election his long time cronies got a payout of approx £200,000 each. Again out of our rates / taxes.

    All of you smug agents out there thinking, this will get rid of the cowboys / spivs and make it better for us, here is some news.

    To Ken you are all cowboys and spivs...you represent the land owners, the natural enemy of the proletariat Ken and his Trotskyist chums claim to represent

    • 13 January 2012 16:50 PM
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    If Ken does get elected (God help us- cant stand him and his voice) lets hope his idea's dont mess up like HIPs did for Labour in the past. Another bright idea of the loony left!

    • 22 December 2011 13:28 PM
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    I've entered you for most pointless post of the year..obviously I meant 'rented'

    do you have anything interesting to say or are you posting whilst bored at your xmas party @ macdonalds?

    • 19 December 2011 15:22 PM
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    @dave - I agree, private "tented" accommodation is not good unless you want to live near St Pauls.

    @paul How about Red Letters?

    • 19 December 2011 10:54 AM
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    RedKenLets.co.uk. What do you think? Or maybe just RedLets ?

    • 16 December 2011 14:39 PM
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    private tented accommodation is not fit for purpose to replace social housing...tenants need security not 6 month leases chucked out with 2 months notice.

    tenants who complain are often evicted by notice and find it difficult to rent again

    when houseprices fall and ftbs decide to buy rather than rent,then the tide will turn and tenants will stick two fingers up.

    who will be renting all those btl portfolios then?

    • 16 December 2011 09:49 AM
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    What ARE you all worrying about. Red Ken won't be elected as Mayor, as Boris will be miles ahead.

    Okay Boris is not everyone's cup of tea but I think we all know who will be Mayor next year.

    • 15 December 2011 21:40 PM
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    Whislt agreeing that capping rents would be counter-productive, the Rent Act 1977 does not need resurrecting, as it it still alive and well.

    I am today sending out a rent increase notice to a tenant who has lived in her property since 1957 in accordance with section 45 of said Act.

    • 15 December 2011 16:02 PM
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    By May next year, the dust will have barely settled from the imminent LHA changes.

    • 15 December 2011 15:46 PM
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    I would rather any Mayor declared war on agents who are not part of a regulating body.

    If they don't have CMP then they are not professional agents.

    I know there are some professional agents who choose not to be part of ARLA, NAEA etc., and I am not knocking them - BUT there are some people who may be good drivers, but if they don't have a licence and aren't insured, they aren't allowed on the roads. Simple.

    • 15 December 2011 13:16 PM
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    I know that Boris's team are currently focussing on the PRS and how to improve it - they do so without headline grabbing mad cap ideas but perhaps need to promote their efforts better. The GLA plan is far better thought out and sustainable - oh, and legal. It was presented at the NALS conference and was widely applauded. Kens idea is unworkable and the knock effects would be profound - in a very bad way.

    Make London uninvestable?

    • 15 December 2011 12:41 PM
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    *STOP PRESS* Letting agents in London declare an all-out war on Ken Livingstone's plans for return to communism.

    • 15 December 2011 11:41 AM
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    Since when has ANY government department operated anything at all with ANY efficiency.

    • 15 December 2011 11:09 AM
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    Genius - Ken is worried about the conditions of rented properties - solution - reduce rents so landlords have less to spend on repairs. Private landlords who rent directly will have to reduce their rents and properties starved of investment for improvements will go under the radar and deteriorate.

    Here's a better idea - get people like Bob Crow who lives in a Housing Association property to use his huge salary to pay for something that isn't subsidised.

    • 15 December 2011 11:04 AM
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    Has this been lifted from one of Ken's speeches in the 1970s?! I'm sure Londoner's would love to subsidise a state owned lettings agency!

    Licensing: Yes.

    Poor old Ken: Let's Keep the Red Flag Flying Here!

    Richard Copus

    • 15 December 2011 11:03 AM
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    What a FANTASTIC idea.

    Reputable letting agents providing good quality service are most likely members of ARLA, or NALS, etc operating under strict codes of practice, already. They have nothing to fear of licencing, apart from it being another annoying expense and few more forms to fill in.

    The scheme will benefit good letting agents by matching slum-landlords to slum-tenants, sucking all of the low quality/ high aggravation lets out of the mainstream.

    These are the lets which occupy most of an agents time, with constant problems, but yield least revenue.

    Ken is freeing up letting agent's time to do more business and be more profitable.


    • 15 December 2011 10:53 AM
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    Tony / Antony - its not agents who let properties with appalling living conditions.

    Try working in our industry - ONE spot of mould caused by condensation as a result of a tenant not using extractor fan or opening windows and its treated like anthrax.

    • 15 December 2011 10:53 AM
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    Sorry meant to add earlier

    He went on: “I want to end the churn-and-burn approach of some of the private letting agents, so I will be tackling abuses in this area."

    Any chance this comment has been prompted by the comments on opportunistic Landlords cashing in on the Olympics do you think?


    Yes of course we watch TV but the vast majority - the vast majority - of the problem you rightly highlight are of course caued by irresponsible private Landlords handling the property themselves, or such landlords who use an agent happy to operate irresponsibly (i.e. unregulated, doesn't belong to anything, no cmp, TPO etc etc etc).

    The only issue Ken is remotely correct on here is the need for licensing - but not by local authorities and loads of individual licensing schemes all round the country.

    • 15 December 2011 10:51 AM
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    @tony - Your comment is misinformed. Decent, regulated Agents do not let slum properties. Its private 'rogue' landlords who do and most of these rent directly to the tenant so a 'not for profit' letting agents scheme is of no relevance, especially one which claims to focus upon condition.

    The key is to have more properties available and licensed landlords and licensed agents who are compelled to meet minimum standards. Add in consumer awareness of rights and a reporting system to expose rogues with severe penalties and you have a semblance of a solution. Fixing rents is not the answer. Where demand outstrips supply, then a black market alternative will always exist.

    • 15 December 2011 10:50 AM
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    i take it none of the above watch TV ? -
    have any of you seen the terrible conditions some families have to live in ? -
    or, perhaps you are all landlords ? -

    • 15 December 2011 10:39 AM
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    i take it none of the above watch TV ? -
    have any of you seen the terrible conditions some families have to live in ? -
    or, perhaps you are all landlords ? -

    • 15 December 2011 10:37 AM
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    "Castigating agents across London" - nothing like stereotyping.

    • 15 December 2011 10:32 AM
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    Absolute tosh, "non-profit" it will be set up with tax payers money any profits made will not go back to the tax payer. once they establish a fair market share i garauntee they will raise prices, add fee's. As for selecting good tennants you must be joking.

    this is just another form of council housing, who are notoriously bad at building and looking after properties. excessive service charges with close to little or no service for the fee paid.

    • 15 December 2011 10:11 AM
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    Ken's ideas, although noble, are simply inpractical.

    We operate in a free market, agents can charge whatever fee they like and a landlord will either pay the fee or use another agent. Also there is no way he can put a limit on how much a landlord can charge on rent.

    It's simply left wing lunacy a non starter and he knows it.

    • 15 December 2011 10:10 AM
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    The man is mad. He want to determine rental values based upon income?

    "Livingstone said that no tenant in the private rented sector should have to pay more than one third of their wage in rent."

    Does he know how referencing works I wonder?

    • 15 December 2011 10:04 AM
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    Red Ken needs to get a grip, this idea is totally unrealistic, I bet he has no idea how difficult this industry is, he would be crying his eyes out if he had to tolerate the average day experienced by most letting agents

    • 15 December 2011 09:57 AM
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    Think I might put myself up for Mayor. I could do it on a non profit basis and do it much better because its easy and everyone will vote for me because I will be better. Simple as that. Isn't it Ken?? GET REAL !! Wonder why you were voted out??

    • 15 December 2011 09:49 AM
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    Ken was...very....very...drunk when he came up with this one.

    • 15 December 2011 09:45 AM
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    Business exists to make profit and grow and thus creates employment and tax revenue. Its a free market and reintroducing socialist extremist policys of market controls set by the state is doomed to failure and unlawful.

    The article 2 down about creating fee wars makes some extremely salient and erudite points which Ken would do well to heed and I urge you to read it.

    As a valuer, I think Ken is effectively fixing prices including values of residential investment by determining rental income and thus value if yields are to be maintained to pay BTL mortgages.

    Ken, communism failed. The biggest investors in prime London are..... the Chinese and Russians. They wont thank you for fixing prices.

    • 15 December 2011 09:43 AM
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    What an instruction winner! Ask the applicant how much they earn & cap the rent at a third of it, its a brilliant concept.

    Well, it is if the landlord is the local Council, they called that sort of approach 'Council Housing' didn't they?

    • 15 December 2011 09:38 AM
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    It is this stupid kind of thinking that got us into the mess we are in. When will Governments and Councils understand that they do NOTHING better AND NOTHING CHEAPER than the private sector. They should be providing a suitable framework for the private sector, not trying to be an Estate Agent - DO YOUR OWN JOB PROPERLY FIRST!

    • 15 December 2011 09:13 AM
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    Red Ken is a communist dinosaur.

    GLA are already working on this and he is simply trying to jump on their bandwagon. I was at the NALS conference and this was part of a talk from the GLA - good stuff.

    Ken cannot and must not interfere with rents or no one will invest in rented property. Not for profit may represent a saving to a landlord of a few per cent at current market rents, but reduce these and the saving is meaningless.

    Frankly, Ken is headline grabbing and simply trying to curry favour with the loony left and easy to win votes from people who think they may get a cheap deal.

    • 15 December 2011 09:12 AM
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    Presumably Ken will also be doing something about the %age of net pay that home owners in London have to pay on their mortgages?

    Why would any Landlord want to go to an agency that will limit what the tenant can pay to them in rent.

    It's all nonsense anyway as it will need primary legislation - though it does flag up the dangers of statutes like the Localism Act in giving greater powers locally to authorities. Now if Ken was able legally to resurrect the 1977 Rent Act and its provisions that would be interesting.

    I assume Ken realises if what he wants did come to pass than many Landlords would sell, thus flooding the market and reducing prices? Wonder how popular that would be with his electorate - be careful what you wish for Ken.

    • 15 December 2011 09:10 AM
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    This idea is about as clever as his Bendy Buses idea.

    • 15 December 2011 09:05 AM
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    So Mr Livingstone....“It will put good tenants in touch with good landlords across the spectrum of private renting so that both can benefit from security of tenure and reduce the costs of letting.”

    How do you plan on establishing who are good tenants and landlords?!

    References...oh yes thats right all good agents do this...doesnt mean to say they are good.

    This is further evidence of too many people in politics with too much time, just to think of ways to throw money away and fill their paid for by the public wasted time!!

    GET REAL!!

    • 15 December 2011 09:05 AM
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    "security of tenure and reduce the costs of letting" this sounds like yet another Labour led attempt to force private sector landlords to become social housing landlords.

    This is the sort of lunatic fringe nonsense that cost him the last election. Please Ken, try some joined up thinking for once.

    • 15 December 2011 08:56 AM
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    We charge 10% let only - Muppet & Co down the road will do it for 4% - we get more properties, we get better better rents, we market better and staff are trained better.

    If Ken can undercut us and come close to matching what we offer, then he can only do so by using tax payers money to subsidise it. With the squeeze on public finances, this means either other services are cut or local tax will increase which will affect everyone,

    • 15 December 2011 08:51 AM
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    Red Ken is after votes - nothing more.

    He is trying to cap (aka FIX) prices in a free economy in a way that failed in communist states.

    It will be a slippery slope - next he will want to cap incomes.

    • 15 December 2011 08:39 AM
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    Wake up and smell the decade Ken. Yes renting is expensive but blaming the rising cost of living on letting agents and "rogue landlords" is socialist nonsense.

    I agree that tenants should not spend more than a third of their income on rent but there are plenty of relatively more affordable areas outside of London so if people find renting too expensive - they should move.

    Taking private sectors public is only going to succeed in matching low-quality tenants with low-quality housing.

    • 15 December 2011 08:25 AM
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