Twenty per cent of private rentals in Tower Hamlets do not meet basic standards, John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets told a public meeting.
Biggs revealed around 9,000 of 46,000 private rented homes do not meet basic standards in the borough, and pledged to take regulatory action to combat the issue.
The meeting, at the Maryam Centre in Whitechapel was held to educate private renters on their rights in the borough.
After launching a renter’s rights charter this summer, Monday’s public meeting gave residents the opportunity to voice their concerns to the Mayor, as the private rental sector soars above social housing numbers in the borough.
The Mayor said: “The renters charter is all about making sure that you’re aware of your rights as a renter, empowering private renters so that you can challenge your landlords when it comes to it.”
There are more than 46,000 private rented homes in Tower Hamlets, which is more than the combined council and housing association homes remaining in the borough.
Biggs added: “Fourty per cent of our residents live in private rented accommodation, which is a massive increase in recent years.”
The increase in private sector housing has meant rent prices are on the rise. Although the local authority cannot impose rental caps on landlords, the charter hopes to help residents fight for their rental rights.
Deputy Mayor and cabinet member for housing, Councillor Sirajul Islam, said: “A lot of our private renters live in very poor housing conditions, I know a lot of people are struggling to pay their rent, which is one of the reasons for increased levels of homelessness.”
Biggs added: “We need the government to recognize that the levels of rent in our borough are so high that we need the housing benefit rules to be fair to local people who are under pressure.
“We should think about the people who are being forced to move out of our borough because the rents are too high. I think it’s quite right to be angry about the way the system works, local people need to be aware of the politics of this.”
To tackle the boroughs housing crisis, the Mayor recently allocated £190 million towards building 1,000 council homes in Tower Hamlets, committed to develop sites into accommodation for homeless families.
One resident at the meeting told the Mayor: “I have a two-bedroom private rented flat with two kids. Every year the letting agent puts up the rent, 2 years ago it was £1650 a month, now it’s £1700. Even with my housing benefit it’s really difficult to sustain. I’ve been on the council housing waiting list in band 3 for 7 years now, will I get a council flat or will I have to leave Tower Hamlets? It’s too hard for me to pay my rent every month when it rises.”
Biggs said: “If you’re being squeezed out of money because of high rent, we need to scratch our heads and look at whether there are other things we can do to help people.”
Islam added: “We would like the government to bring in rent control, as we can’t do that as a local authority.”
“One of our problems is that all our officers try to accommodate residents within the borough, but sometimes their hands are tied with hardly any properties to give.”
Another resident, renting one room in a three-bed house with a child, claimed even with long working hours his £866 rent is difficult to afford with only £219 housing benefit each month.
Islam responded: ”You will get an offer eventually, but it is a lengthy wait.”