Steep rent rises are pricing Lewisham residents out of the borough

“I almost have no idea how I have remained a resident in Lewisham during this time,” says Laurence Verfaillie, 63, who has lived in New Cross for over 10 years.

Moving to London in the early 90s from the north of France, she feels that the area has changed immensely over the years – including steep rises in private rents.

According to data published by private rental supplier HomeLet earlier this year, Lewisham was the leading borough for rental price increases between August 2022 and August 2023.

“My landlord recently wanted to increase my rent by over 20 per cent of what I was originally paying," Verfaillie explains.

"I live in a poorly converted terrace, so the new prices that I would be paying would be unacceptable.

“On the strength of my long occupation of the flat of over 10 years and no payment failures over the course of that time as well as good maintenance of the flat, I negotiated a smaller increase.”

Verfaillie feels as though the standard of accommodation does not match the price of private rentals and says after witnessing the behaviour of private landlords for many years, she does not have high hopes for the future of housing in Lewisham.

“There is definitely a combination of housing shortages in the borough as well as rising costs for owners with big interest rates. However, on the other side, I have seen a lot of greed when it comes to how landlords treat tenants and how inconsiderate they can be when it comes to their financial struggles.

“I definitely think there needs to be more homes built for families in Lewisham, but with no plans to heavily invest in public services like hospitals and transport infrastructure to cope with extra residents, I don’t see how things can improve.”

Georgia Bradley, 22, is another Lewisham renter who has struggled to remain in the borough. She says she has encountered frequent maintenance and mould problems as a result of her previous landlord's neglect, which forced her to move.

“I think there are lots of good rules in place implemented by the council that deal with housing issues, but lots of landlords ignore them and tenants usually don’t know what they are entitled to,” she says.

Mould inside of built-in wardrobe in Georgia's previous house. Pic: Georgia Bradley

In September 2022 her landlord listed the three-bedroom houseshare between three people for £2,599 per month, then increased it to £2,800 after they made an offer.

In September 2023, when the contract was up for renewal, the landlord wanted to increase the rent to £3,200 with no improvements, forcing Bradley and her housemates to leave.

“Standing at Lewisham station now, I am witnessing all the high rises that have been built that don’t fit in the local area at all and are really expensive. They are usually one-bedroom flats and studios when what the borough needs is three or four-bedroom family homes”.

Bradley, a student and babysitter who has to worry about costs at home, feels that the lack of affordable private rentals is driving competition - and the quality of available homes on the rental market.

“Lewisham was known for being more affordable compared to other areas in London, making demand ridiculously high, so I have found the market is extremely competitive which, as a result, impacts the conditions of these homes.”

Although the issue is exacerbated in Lewisham because it has seen the biggest rent rises in the city over the last year, London overall is still the most expensive city to rent in in the UK, with the average rents hitting £2,179, according to HomeLet.

The low supply of rental properties and rising demand have not helped as the cost of living crisis bites for renters.

The Financial Times reported that as a result of the ongoing supply shortage, the rental market will continue to be challenging for tenants and as the market continues to stagnate and landlords leave, it is only going to add fuel to the fire.

Dan Wilson Craw, Deputy Chief Executive of Generation Rent told ELL: “Renting in London is a waking nightmare – if you want to move there are no good options. Even if you don’t want to move your landlord could hit you with a rent increase or eviction at any moment.”

Craw believes that local government could be doing a lot more to limit the unattainable financial pressures rent prices are creating.

“In the short term, the Mayor of London should get powers to cap rents across London in order to give Londoners some respite from the cost of renting crisis.

“This combined with landlord licensing, which Lewisham has recently introduced, and ending arbitrary Section 21 evictions is key to making sure Londoners stay in their homes and aren’t forced away from their friends, family and work.”

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