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Camden Council to explore ways of capping rent prices set by private landlords

Cllr Julian Fulbrook. Cllr Julian Fulbrook.

Monday, July 14, 2014
8:00 AM

Camden Council has hired a leading housing expert to explore ways of controlling the spiralling cost of private rent.

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"We may not be using all the levers that we have at our disposal to deal with a very difficult problem, which is an overheated private rented sector in Camden"

Cllr Julian Fulbrook

Christine Whitehead, professor of housing economics at the London School of Economics (LSE), will examine how the council can stem the rapid rise.

The council is considering offering financial incentives to private landlords who agree to cap rent increases in line with inflation.

Cllr Julian Fulbrook, cabinet member for housing, said: “Rents in the borough are unbelievable. There are some enormous amounts being talked about. Private sector tenants have some very lurid tales about how landlords are putting up rents.

“We may not be using all the levers that we have at our disposal to deal with a very difficult problem, which is an overheated private rented sector in Camden.

“We don’t necessarily need to wait for national legislation to deal with this because we already have relationships with private landlords and many of them have already said they welcome this.”

Cllr Fulbrook, who worked with Professor Whitehead when he was a law professor at the LSE, said his former colleague would look at the prospect of offering loans for capital repairs to private landlords in exchange for them signing up to a council “rent stabilisation scheme”.

“If we are handing out council money, maybe we ought to consider if there are strings attached to some of the loans to landlords,” said Cllr Fulbrook.

Cllr Fulbrook said registered landlords would benefit from a “kitemark saying, Camden Council-approved”.

In April, Labour leader Ed Miliband unveiled his party’s proposals to cap rent increases and introduce mandatory three-year tenancies in the private sector.

The LSE report will examine how private landlords can be encouraged to offer longer-term lets to give families and older tenants more security.

Cllr Fulbrook said the report’s findings, due in the autumn, would be “filtering through to one of our local residents, Ed Miliband, to see what a future Labour government could do”.

Private landlord, Conservative councillor Jonny Bucknell, of Belsize ward, said: “The reason that rents are so high is that prices are so high. Rents have got to be proportionate to house prices. Any sort of cap will deter people from coming into the marketplace.

“What has worked incredibly well is deregulation and the private market has taken off. Any whiff of regulation could put people off coming into the market.”

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