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Comment: London and its landlords will not fall

PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 April 2017

Despite Brexit London will not fall. In fact, the property market has hardly faltered

Despite Brexit London will not fall. In fact, the property market has hardly faltered

PA Wire/PA Images

In the face of the onslaught of regulations letting agents and landlords will have to learn to turn the other cheek, whilst London smiles in the face of Brexit

Sometimes a smile is the best weapon, as Birmingham's Saffiyah Khan demonstrated against the EDL. PHOTO: Joe GiddensSometimes a smile is the best weapon, as Birmingham's Saffiyah Khan demonstrated against the EDL. PHOTO: Joe Giddens

When T S Eliot wrote the iconic opening line to The Waste Land he probably didn’t have London landlords in mind. But April has indeed been the cruellest month for those who make their living from lettings.

Last April saw the introduction of the three per cent surcharge on second homes that stung the buy-to-letters. This April Section 24 will see landlords taxed on income rather than profit, effectively weaning them off tax relief on their mortgages over a four year period.

Council’s have also now been given increased powers to tackle rogue landlords. They can impose fines of up to £30,000 and the remit of issuing rent repayment orders has been widened. Camden council has already been leading the charge, fining agents who failed to display fees properly a total of £10,500.

The proposed ban on tenant’s fees has officially entered the consultation period as part of the government’s plan to stop agencies charging for what can seem like arbitrary administrative.

It’s hardly surprising that the target of these legislative changes feel personally attacked, but these changes could well prove positive to both sides, despite unavoidable teething trouble.

Any reputable agent should rejoice at measures aimed at cleaning up the industry. Every rogue landlord that falls by the wayside leaves space for those who practice in good faith to flourish.

Fees too often leave a bad taste in the mouth of tenants, who should be able to trust that lettings agents hold their interests at least as close to their hearts as the potential to make profits.

‘It was a racket that would have shamed Capone,’ said buying agent and fellow London renter Henry Pryor. It’s hyperbolic to suggest that fees are the financial version of a baseball bat meaningfully thwacked against an open palm, but agents would still do well to distance themselves from a service charge that leaves clients feeling extorted.

Threats of raised fees do little improve the image of the lettings industry in the eyes of London’s beleaguered renters. Landlords and letting agents still need tenants; far better to grin and bear it as they deliver with a service with a smile if not a surcharge.

There was something of T S Eliot in the sprawling, scrolling elegiac digital piece published by the New York Times.Will London Fall? is a record of Londoners going about the day Article 50 was triggered, seemingly oblivious to the impending rupture with Europe, realised in interactive, monochromatic glory.

The video, stills, and essay are cut with stand alone stanzas. One meditation on Londoners still rushing blindly about, filling Tube carriages and pubs recalls Eliot in particular: ‘A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, / I had not thought death had undone so many’.

Are we really zombies trudging towards the end of London as a global city, unseeing? Betterage’s law of headlines aside, all signs still point to no. Article 50 was triggered and the banks have not fled, in fact esate agents are reporting a noticeable uptick in enquiries as Londoners do what they do best: get on with it.

Where, exactly, will London fall? Into the sea? Hardly likely, given the robust state of the Thames barrier. Into the hands of dog whistle racist Brexiteers? It’s something we must remain constantly vigilant against.

Imagery of shuffling, hungry hordes uses to invoke a zombie apocalypse horror of refugees were amongst their baser tactics employed by the Leave campaign. It rankles that the author chose to centre the voice of the likes of turgid clickbait hawker Katie Hopkins alongside those of Europeans making their lives in London.

It is far better to imitate the attitude of Saffiyah Khan, smiling condescendingly at those who rightly fear that their close minded politics are being rendered obsolete by the march of progress. She’s not a Londoner, but her attitude is the very best of British that both the country and its capital should seek to emulate together in the face of Brexit. It will take more than the referendum to dull our shine as an alpha city.

There is an awful cruelty and closing borders, but London, like life, will find a way. Let’s meet the future with a fierce and furious smile.

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