Campaign group proposes landlord registration

Digs attendees discuss housing issues in Hackney. Pics: Digs

Hackney landlords should be placed on council registers according to a new housing support group.

Speaking at the formal launch of Digs, ‘home saving expert’ Ben Reeve-Lewis said a list would stop rent prices rocketing and improve housing standards.

Lewis praised the system in Wales, where all landlords must have a license to rent out properties.

“Licensing gives local authorities the right to pull the plug on bad [landlords] and leave the good ones in place. We will become a force for change.”

Digs hopes the list will help people facing homelessness by including landlords who are prepared to rent to people on housing benefits.

Supported by social justice initiative Hackney Unites, the group aims to educate tenants on their legal rights and improve tenant-landlord relations.

The initiative is also critical of estate agents’ fees, which can be up to £500, excluding a deposit and a month’s rent.

Various housing action and support groups were represented at the meeting.

Ali Aksoy, of Hackney Refugees, said that he had seen a sharp increase in illegal evictions in the last two years.

“During the Olympics, prices started to rocket. Landlords wanted to rent out their properties at higher prices.

“Many of the tenants being evicted don’t speak English very well, and they don’t know their rights, so it is very easy for landlords to evict them.

“That is why sometimes it’s too late [for us to help them] as they are already out.”

Sermin Aksoy, of One Support, said that their organisation had received complaints about landlords leaving houses in serious dis-repair for weeks at a time.

She said: “It’s unbelievable. We had an elderly lady who reported a serious problem with her flooring. They changed the kitchen, but they didn’t replace the floor.

“When she stood on it, it was soft, and the central heating didn’t work. This lady is 60 years old and she has serious health problems.

“We reported it to Hackney Council three weeks ago. We are still waiting [for repairs].”

Lewis also encouraged efforts to cap the rent that landlords can charge. Landlords have previously objected to this, arguing that it would hit them hard financially.

He argued: “Being a landlord is still an extremely profitable business, even after caps have been introduced.”

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