A columnist for current affairs magazine The Spectator has accused landlords of taking advantage of the current economic climate to squeeze more cash out of renters.
Lisa Haseldine accused landlords of “blatant profiteering”, which she said must stopped to ease costs for tenants. She also argued that tenants are overly vulnerable due to the imbalance between supply and demand.
She talked up Sadiq Khan as potentially having the answer, because the London Mayor has repeatedly called for the powers to implement rent controls in the capital.
Haseldine wrote: “The current economic situation has left renters more vulnerable than ever. They are being strong-armed into the position of getting less bang for more buck.
“Some landlords have not even waited for their tenants’ leases to expire to hike the rent, contacting them at their break clauses to squeeze more money out…
“On cue with the cost-of-living crisis, rental prices began to shoot up. Frequently the increases, as in the case of my own flat, seem quite arbitrary: the quality of flats has hardly gone up in tandem.
“My flat has maintenance issues that the landlord has been promising to fix for approaching twelve months – somehow, I don’t think receiving more of my hard-earned cash is going to get him to pull his finger out.
“The blatant profiteering in the rental market, driven by landlords taking advantage of the economic environment, must be curbed.”
She went on to suggest she is one of the “lucky ones”, because her friends have told her stories of living in flats where ceilings have collapsed from untreated damp, faulty heating systems, rodent infestations or a lack of basic appliances.
She claimed there is little incentive for London landlords to “get their act together” because the imbalance between supply and demand means landlords can always rent to someone else if a tenant decides to leave.
Haseldine hit out at the Tory leadership candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, which she said have a reluctance to build new homes.
Instead she pinned more hope on the Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan, quoting a June Ipsos survey which found that 72% of Britons favour introducing rent controls.
She added: “Rent controls already exist in various forms around the world, in New York and Germany, for instance. Critics of the idea say that they discourage investment in property and encourage neglect of the existing housing stock.
“In part, they may be correct. Yes, rent controls may well discourage investment in housing. After all, if landlords are restricted in how much money they can make by renting a property out, why bother in the first place? But would that be such a bad thing?
“The current housing market is severely choked. Disincentivising people from purchasing property as investments would free up the market, house prices would realign and drop, thereby becoming more affordable. While the rental housing pool would potentially shrink, the pool of properties for sale would grow.
“Introducing rent controls could also present an opportunity to bring in accompanying regulations to oblige landlords to maintain their properties to an acceptable standard, as they do in Germany.
“Rent controls don’t necessarily mean freezing rent prices indefinitely. Different models exist that allow landlords to increase rent between tenancies by fixed amounts, usually in line with inflation, plus occasionally by a few extra per cent. Even in the current economic climate, with inflation at 9.4%, a model such as this would help curb the rental crisis heading our way.”
The National Residential Landlords Association has repeatedly criticised the idea of introducing rent controls, which it said would serve to drive landlords out of the market – further depleting tenants’ supply of stock.
Liz Truss has publicly opposed rent controls, also saying the policy would result in fewer properties being available to rent.