Camden is the 4th most expensive place to rent in the country and we regularly hear of demands for increases of 10-20% and in one case 45%. The attitude of many landlords/agents is pay the rent increase we are demanding or leave. This creates a constant sense of fear and anxiety amongst tenants.
More tenants than properties available
A perennial problem in a popular place like Camden, but the impact is ever increasing rents and tenants in a weak position due to it being a landlords rather than a tenants market. It also means landlords/agents don’t have to work very hard to get their tenants – so there is little or no incentive to provide high quality and well managed homes.
Housing Benefit caps and other welfare reforms
Increasingly means tenants on low incomes and/or benefits are faced with some very stark choices: either negotiate a lower rent (very unlikely for the reasons stated above), pay the new rent shortfall yourself or move out of the borough altogether. Camden Council has said that around 2,000 claimants (about 40% of whom have children) will be affected by these changes, and an additional problem is the removal of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) for the poorest residents.
Impact on social cohesion
Large groups of people faced with having to uproot and move from the borough to other places, undermines the ability to develop long-term, stable and strong communities. A senior Camden councillor has claimed this will lead to “super gentrification and super pauperisation”.
Fear of eviction
Due to the use of Section 21 notices we (and many other organisations) say that private tenants are only ever 2 months away from losing the roof over their head. A Section 21 Notice enables a landlord to seek re-possession of a property anytime after the first 6 months of a tenancy, and they only need to give 2 months notice to the tenant and do not have to give a reason why they are evicting them.
Occurs when a tenant asks for repairs and/or improvements to be made to their home and the landlord/agent responds by evicting them. We were recently approached by a family who have been asked to leave due to making complaints about the condition of the property to the environmental health service. However, the landlord has said they can stay if they stop demanding repairs be done and making complaints.
Lack of knowledge of rights
There is a worryingly low-level of awareness of legal rights amongst private tenants and this is particularly acute amongst tenants who come here from other countries, and are not familiar with how “the system works” and crucially where to go for help and advice.
Imbalance of power
There is a clear imbalance of power in the tenant and landlord relationship, therefore trying to get things improved for tenants who are struggling as isolated individuals is extremely difficult. Our experience shows that having some support and back-up and being able to share knowledge and experiences gives tenants the confidence to tackle their problems because they feel they are not alone and their problem has been acknowledged.
Who predominate in Camden charge high fees and provide a very poor service to tenants (hence the support from across the sector for agents to be regulated, even from the agents themselves). The additional burden of agents fees (a basic £250-300 administration fee is typical and we have heard of tenants being asked for £150 to re-new a tenancy) merely add to the financial problems already being faced by many private tenants, and because a high turnover of tenants is good for business; they exacerbate the problem of “churn” within the private rented sector.
Poor property conditions
Sadly, high rents do not mean high-quality and well-managed homes. Camden Council has estimated that the private rented sector contains the highest level (over 30%) of homes that fail the government’s Decent Homes Standard.