'At the mercy of a landlord concerned by profits not people'

Gisburn Mansions, Tottenham Lane, Hornsey

The new owner of Gisburn Mansions issued rent increases and eviction notices to tenants - Credit: Google Streetview

The treatment of some private tenants in Gisburn Mansions in Hornsey, so powerfully highlighted by the Ham&High recently, has been shameful. 

Their story will be familiar to many. Living happily, paying their rent on time each month, looking after their flat well. Yet when the block they lived in was sold to a new owner who promptly issued 40% rent increases to some households and eviction notices to others, they quickly discovered they were at the mercy of a landlord concerned by profits not people. 

The UK has the worst protections for tenants in Western Europe. I was granted a debate in  parliament this month to discuss this housing insecurity, affecting 17,500 privately rented households in Hornsey and Wood Green and many more across the city.

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West says the UK has the worst protections for tenants in Western Europe - Credit: Chris McAndrew

Despite the Tories promising to outlaw Section 21 “no fault” evictions in their last manifesto, two years on we’re still waiting for the long-overdue Renters’ Reform Bill to come to parliament. 40% of London’s households are expected to live in the private rented sector by 2025. Yet right now, if tenants want to challenge an excessive rent rise their only option is a lengthy and complex tribunal. If they succeed, there’s nothing to stop their landlord evicting them, so many tenants understandably don’t feel it’s worth fighting. 

Instead, they give up their home and often their community. I’m pleased that following weeks of pressure the new owners of Gisburn Mansions partially backed down. But their change of heart came too late for some residents, who’d already moved on, and others are still fighting huge rent rises way above inflation. In Shelter’s latest survey of private renters, 39% said housing worries left them feeling anxious, with many saying how hard their children found the constant uprooting.

Labour has urged the government to bring forward legislation to outlaw Section 21 and give tenants the security they deserve. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who’s worked with tenants and landlords to develop a fairer tenancy model – the London model – has called on the government to reform court processes to make it easier for renters to challenge rent increases and eviction notices.

We urgently need a system that recognises these are people’s homes, not a commodity ripe for profit-hungry landlords. 

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Catherine West is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green