#RentFreezeNow open letter
The LRU has coordinated an open letter to Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove about the urgent crisis facting private renters. The full text and list of signatories is below.
23 Feburary 2023
Dear Rt Hon Mr Michael Gove MP,
We are writing to urge the government to follow the Scottish government and introduce an immediate freeze on rents, to help renters weather the worst of the cost of living crisis and help prevent huge numbers of renters facing homelessness in the coming months.
Rising costs of food and energy mean millions are struggling to make ends meet. Last year 2.5 million renters were behind or constantly struggling to pay their rent. At the same time, rents have been skyrocketing across the UK, rising fastest in Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield and Birmingham, reaching as high as 20.5%. Rents in London have gone up 17.8% on average last year, and rent increases of 30-50% are increasingly common.
Renters are among the worst affected by the cost of living crisis. Prior to this crisis, renters were already spending four to five times as much as owner-occupiers on housing. Yet landlords, with the encouragement of letting agents, are using this crisis as an opportunity to introduce rent hikes. In September 2022 alone, one million renters faced a rent increase.
Some landlords will be struggling with increased mortgage costs, but many will not. Generation Rent research shows that just 11% of rent increases in 2022 were the result of higher mortgage rates. Just under half of rental properties have a mortgage and most of those have ‘interest only’ mortgages. The vast majority of landlords have far greater financial resilience to weather the storm ahead, with the median annual income of landlords before their income from rent is taken into account at £55,415. In comparison, many renters are low paid, in precarious work and have no savings or assets. Some landlords that are facing increased mortgage costs are trying to pass those costs on to renters that simply cannot afford it.
People living in private rented housing are all too often forgotten by the government. During the pandemic, the government introduced a temporary freeze for mortgage holders, but nothing close in comparison for those renting. Renters are still desperately waiting for the ban on no-fault evictions that the Government has been promising since 2019. Since last year, there has been a 121.1% increase in the number of households served a section 21 notice. It comes as no surprise that 1.7 million households could become homelessness in these colder months.
The immediate support renters need in the crisis is clear. The Scottish government has introduced a freeze on rents until at least March 2023, with an accompanying ban on evictions. However, the Scottish government does not have the power to embed support for low income mortgage holders within a rent freeze, whilst our Government does. A rent freeze could be accompanied by support for mortgage holders – ensuring renters and lower income homeowners do not lose their homes through the crisis.
The Mayor of London has repeatedly called for such measures to be introduced in England and Wales. A rent freeze would immediately relieve pressure on millions of people and halt an eviction crisis that would have a devastating social impact, and cost local councils and the government millions.
The Government must now act to protect renters. We therefore call on the government to follow the lead of the Scottish government and:
- Introduce an immediate freeze on rents to protect renters.
- Implement an immediate ban on evictions until the cost of living crisis is over.
- Deliver on the commitment to end section 21 by fast tracking the much-delayed Renters Reform Bill.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region
Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Cllr Shaban Mohammed, Newham Council
Mayor Philip Glanville, Hackney Council
Muhammed Butt, leader, and Cllr Promise Knight, Brent Council
Aydin Dikerdem, Cabinet Member for Housing, Wandsworth Council
Cllr Sem Moema, Member, Greater London Assembly
Carla Denyer & Adrian Ramsay, Co-Leaders, Green Party
Mick Lynch, General Secretary, RMT
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, NEU
Andrea Eagan, President, UNISON
Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU
Ben Selby, Vice President, FBU
Chloe Field, Vice President Higher Education, NUS
Barry Jones and Adam Lincoln, London Region, UCU
Daniel Odu, London Renters Union
ACORN The Union
Tofunmi Odugbemi, Greater Manchester Tenants Union
Peterborough Tenants Union
Living Rent – Scotland’s Tenants Union
Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary, Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain
Alicia Kennedy, Generation Rent
Ronald Daley, Advice4Renters
Julie Bishop, Director, Law Centres Network
Jean Demars, Director, Public Interest Law Centre
Rebecca Winson, Senior Organiser, New Economics Foundation
Michael Erhardt, Policy Lead, Disability Rights UK
Eva Watkinson, Senior Campaigner, Debt Justice
Simon Youel, Head of Policy & Advocacy, Positive Money
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Womens Budget Group
Jason Tetley, Director, Greater Manchester Law Centre
Ruth London, Fuel Poverty Action
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