May 28, 2024 5:18 am

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Nikka Sulton

A council that recently announced it would charge landlords nearly £1,000 for a licence is now facing accusations of evicting over 100 tenants. 

Lambeth Council in south London is introducing a Selective Licensing Scheme in four wards, with plans to expand to another 19 wards in the near future. This scheme requires landlords to pay a licence fee of £943. According to a report prepared by the council, the fee is part of a broader strategy to ensure Lambeth becomes “a place we can all call home.”

Critics argue that the new licensing scheme, while intended to improve housing standards, is putting additional financial pressure on landlords. This, in turn, could lead to higher rents or evictions, as landlords may pass on the costs to their tenants or decide to exit the rental market altogether. The recent evictions have raised concerns about the council’s approach and its impact on the community, especially amid an ongoing housing crisis.

The council maintains that the licensing fee is necessary to enforce housing standards and protect tenants from poor living conditions. They argue that the scheme will ultimately benefit tenants by ensuring that properties meet required standards and that landlords adhere to their responsibilities. However, the controversy over the evictions and the high cost of the licence fee continues to spark debate among residents and housing advocates.

However, the same council is now facing accusations of forcing over 100 private tenants to seek new homes. These tenants had moved into estates that the council has now earmarked for regeneration and potential demolition. This unexpected decision has left many tenants scrambling to find alternative accommodation, adding to the growing concerns over housing stability in the area.

According to a report by the BBC, the properties in question are former council homes that were privately purchased under the long-standing Right to Buy scheme. Over time, Lambeth Council has re-purchased these properties and let them out through private letting agencies. Many tenants, unaware of the true ownership, signed contracts without realising they were actually renting from the local authority.

The confusion stems from the fact that the rental contracts, facilitated by letting agents, were with ‘HfL’ – Homes for Lambeth. This arms-length management company was set up by the council to manage these properties. Consequently, tenants were misled into believing they were dealing with private landlords, not the council.

This situation has sparked significant outrage among tenants and housing advocates. Many argue that the council’s actions undermine the trust of residents who believed they were securing stable housing. The forced relocations add to the already critical housing shortage in London, exacerbating the challenges faced by those seeking affordable homes.

Additionally, the council’s new Selective Licensing Scheme, which charges landlords almost £1,000 for a licence, adds another layer of complexity. While intended to ensure better housing standards, critics argue it places additional financial burdens on landlords, which could be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents.

Overall, Lambeth Council’s policies and actions are under intense scrutiny. The forced evictions and the new licensing fees highlight the broader issues of housing affordability and availability in London. As tenants face displacement and financial uncertainty, the call for more transparent and fair housing practices becomes increasingly urgent.

The council now plans to redevelop or demolish parts of the housing estates where these properties are located, requiring the private tenants living there to move out. This decision has sparked significant concern and criticism, as over 100 tenants are now facing the need to find new homes.

A council spokesperson explained to the BBC, “The council is seeking to use all the properties it can to support those families most affected by the housing crisis. The properties in question are former Right To Buy homes that the council has bought back, and we are planning to use them to provide vital housing for homeless families in our borough.”

The spokesperson further elaborated that these properties were let to private tenants on a fixed-term basis as Assured Shorthold Tenancies. This arrangement was always intended to be a temporary measure, with the primary goal of addressing immediate housing needs.

Tenants have been informed that their current fixed-term tenancies will not be renewed when they come to an end. The council emphasized that this strategy is part of a broader effort to repurpose available housing resources to tackle the pressing issue of homelessness in the community. This move is seen as a necessary step to ensure that more vulnerable families have access to secure housing, despite the disruption it causes to the current tenants.

Lambeth council’s actions have brought attention to the complex challenges of balancing regeneration projects with the immediate housing needs of residents. The properties in question, initially acquired under the Right To Buy scheme and subsequently repurchased by the council, highlight the ongoing struggle to manage housing stock effectively amidst growing demand and limited supply. As the council proceeds with its redevelopment plans, the displaced tenants will need to navigate the competitive housing market to secure new accommodations.

“The agencies managing the tenancies on behalf of Homes for Lambeth have contacted tenants to let them know that their tenancy will not be renewed and, where suitable, to offer support to help them find alternative accommodation.”

The BBC cites a case study of one tenant, Mylene Lejuste, and her husband. They signed a two-year lease in January 2022 and last November agreed to a renewal. But within months they were told their landlord – which turns out to be Lambeth council – “will now need possession of the property”.

Their son, aged six, attends a local school and they said they felt part of the local community. Mylene Lejuste told the BBC: “When we viewed the property and they asked us how long we wanted to rent the place for, we said three years plus. Since day one we have told them this is our home. We are looking for a long term house. I felt abused and fooled. They knew from day one. I feel they haven’t been transparent.”



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