Freedom News

Tenants call for rent freeze in protests across London

Hundreds of renters from the London Renters Union (LRU) protested on Saturday across London to demand the government implement a Scotland-style emergency rent freeze, and to highlight the human cost of the rental crisis. Amidst a worsening cost of living crisis, renters protested outside of letting agents who play a key role in gouging rents well above inflation.

Connor, LRU member, said: “My partner and I were forced out of our home when our landlord tried to put up the rent by £8,000 per year. Finding a new place was a real struggle and in the end we were forced to move in somewhere £200 more per month than before. I now have to work two jobs to make ends meet. We’re taking action because the government is doing nothing to protect renters. Instead of prioritising the profits of landlords and estate agents, the government must step in to protect renters with a rent freeze like in Scotland.”

Over 200 London renters, facing £3000+ rent increases (20.5%), demonstrated outside of Foxtons, Winkworths, and other letting agents in Tottenham, Bow, Stratford, Hackney, Willesden and Crystal Palace. Some estate agent branches were forced to close their doors to customers for the day.

In Hackney, renters hung a giant “Freeze Rent Not Renters” banner from the roof of a Foxtons branch. Elsewhere, renters put landlords in fake stocks, sang rent-rise themed Christmas carols to the tune of Wham’s Last Christmas and gave speeches about the homelessness and eviction that many now face due to rent rises. 

Rising rents are driving homelessess to record highs. Many are forced to accept unjustifiably high rent increases for fear of ‘no-fault’ Section 21 eviction if they refuse – still legal despite the government’s promise to abolish the clause in 2019. Section 21 evictions are up 76%.

Meanwhile, major London estate agent Foxtons reported a 25% increase in revenues off the back of its role in pushing up rents. In 2021, CEO at the time Nicholas Budden was handed £1.6 million in pay. While 39% of landlords have no debt on their properties, landlords are exploiting the cost of living crisis as an excuse to hike rents well above incomes. 

The Scottish government introduced a freeze on rents in October, following a campaign from renters union Living Rent, and Sadiq Khan has recently joined housing campaigners in calling for an immediate rent freeze in London on private rents. Many cities across Europe employ rent controls to cap the amount landlords can increase rent by.

Rebekah Hesse-Clark from London Renters Union, said: “Landlords and estate agents like Foxtons are using the current economic crisis to artificially increase rents and boost profits. The rent rises being pushed through are unfair and unjustifiable. Nearly half of all landlords do not have a mortgage, and many will be not affected by rising mortgage rates. By refusing to introduce a rent freeze like the one in Scotland, the government is leaving renters to face eviction and homelessness and giving a green light to estate agents and landlords to continue to exploit tenants.”

Image: London Renters Union

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