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.