The Bishops of Barking, Edmonton, Stepney, Croydon and Woolwich today co-signed aletter being delivered to Housing Minister Alok Sharma asking him to approve a pioneering property licencing scheme in Newham which is protecting vulnerable tenants from bad and criminal landlords. A decision is imminent, and without backing from Housing Minister Alok Sharma, the scheme cannot roll further, setting a precedent for the rest of London.
The Bishops joined community leaders from civil society alliance London Citizens in welcoming recent moves to tackle the rising problem of rogue landlords and today deliver a letter asking to meet the Housing Minister to discuss what more can be done by local councils and community leaders as evidence emerges landlords continue to get away with leaving tenants in shocking housing conditions.
The letter also asks that Housing Minister Alok Sharma gives green light to the landlord licensing scheme in Newham, where 27,000 landlords in the private rented sector have been registered, allowing the Council to ensure tenants are aware of their rights and that illegal behaviour from landlords can be prosecuted.
The Newham scheme was first launched in 2013 after complaints against landlords in the private rented sector due to unsafe conditions and bad practice rocketed. It comes to an end in December, and under stricter restrictions imposed by the government in 2015, Newham must now apply to government for permission to continue to protect tenants for another five-year period.
People in these local communities in Newham and elsewhere have regularly expressed alarming stories of being treated poorly by neglectful landlords. The letter notes the recent tragedy in Grenfell demonstrates the need for an increased focus on the health and safety of rented accommodation.
Housing was made a priority by Citizens UK after many churches and community groups reported instances of tenants being put in dangerous housing situations for years by unscrupulous landlords. Churches and community groups in East London have been forming housing teams to tackle some of these issues and believe back up from a licencing system, based on current experience in Newham, would help reduce cases of tenants being left in dangerous housing situations.
Pete Brierley from Citizen UK said:
“On their own, people are struggling to tackle rogue landlords. It’s important that we all come together to figure out a way to stop a minority of landlords that are neglecting their responsibilities and bullying vulnerable families. London Citizens exists to bring people together so that they can collectively get change on the issues they care about. Our leaders in Newham have identified the landlord licensing scheme as one way that is successfully tackling the problem of rogue landlords and they don’t want it to be stopped. Other member groups across London are starting to ask councils to follow in Newham’s footsteps. We hope that Alok Sharma will agree to meet with us, so that we might work together with the government to tackle a problem ruining people’s lives.”