London Renters Union activists across the Eastlondonlines boroughs are gearing up for demonstrations on December 3 to protest against rent price hikes, accusing landlords and specifically estate agents of profiteering from inflation and the cost of living crisis.
In Tower Hamlets, protests will be aimed against the estate agency Winkworth and in Hackney against Foxtons, who LRU claim have “raked in £29 million in letting revenue between July and September this year, marking almost 20 per cent more than during the same quarter in 2021.”
LRU Lewisham is the only South London branch of the organisation and has members from all over South London including Lambeth, Southwark, Bromley, Greenwich and Croydon. They are co-ordinating a protest in Crystal Palace, “which is on the edge of about five of those boroughs.” The LRU have declined to give specifics of their actions in advance.
A packed meeting in Lewisham earlier this month showed the growing momentum for a rental freeze in the face of ballooning rent prices for private renters.
Speaking to Eastlondonlines, the LRU said: “We’ve witnessed estate agents urging landlords to increase rents … Thousands of our members across London have already reported unaffordable rent rises. Agents and landlords are cashing in on the current economic crisis to yank up rents and boost their own profits.”
The LRU Lewisham branch has around 1,000 members, a number which has grown in the past few months alongside cases related to rent increases.
Clara Hill, a 27-year-old freelance journalist has been a member for two months: “Landlords have too much power in society and tenants need better protection under the state”.
Charlie, 30, has been a member for two years and says the people that he deals with have, on average, experienced an annual rent increase of £3,000.
The LRU say they are “inspired by the grassroots campaign of Living Rent in Scotland successfully bringing in rent freeze and eviction bans”.
Similar campaigning by Living Rent in Scotland resulted in the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Bill being passed on October 6, effectively freezing rent until March 2023.
The announcement came the same week that London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on the Government to introduce a two-year private sector rent freeze.
Londoners face the highest rent prices in Europe. 2.6 million people in London rent privately at nearly double the median rent price in England.
Lewisham councillor Sophie Davis, cabinet member for Housing Management and Homelessness told Eastlondonlines: “Like the rest of London, private renters in Lewisham are currently facing huge increases in rents and the cost of living.”
She added “Sadiq Khan is right to call for action from the Government and we would welcome a rent freeze for private renters. We also need the Government to finally deliver on its commitment to introduce a Renters Reform Bill with further protections for private renters, including the long-promised ban on no-fault evictions.”
An estate agent in Brockley who wished to remain anonymous spoke to ELL. He said a rental freeze “makes sense” but is “not necessarily a good idea”.
He said he was sceptical because the market “should plateau in the new year as more properties come on the market”.
He added that the cost of being a landlord had risen by 30 per cent but that the agency is “not advising” landlords to raise rents.
ELL spoke to a private landlord in Lewisham who also wished to be anonymous. The landlord justified increasing rent “very slightly” in the past year saying: “of course landlords should raise rent if gas prices go up. Restaurants have made their food more expensive and I support that.”
He continued saying: “A rent freeze is not the solution. Government curbing energy company surpluses would be better.”
Winkworth and Foxtons did not respond to requests for comment.