Landlord scales back 40% rent rise - but it is too late for some tenants

Ben Cox, inset, and Gisburn Mansions in Hornsey

Ben Cox (inset) said he and his flatmates were forced to leave Gisburn Mansions, Hornsey, after receiving notice of a 40 per cent rent hike - Credit: Google Streetview / Ben Cox

Tenants had to leave their Haringey home after being served notice of a 40 per cent rent hike weeks before Christmas.

In November, multiple households in Gisburn Mansions – outside Hornsey train station in Tottenham Lane – were served with papers seeking to up their rents or evict them.

Hornsey MP Catherine West raised the tenants’ plight last week in Parliament.

The Highgate-based landlord has now retracted the eviction notices and attempted to settle on lower rent increases, but for some it was already “too late”.

Rent hikes

Designer Ben Cox moved into a three-bedroom flat with two flatmates shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

In November 2021, they received notice that their rent would increase by more than £700 a month – a rise of just below 40 per cent.

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The increase was being sought by Harmondsworthit LLP, a Highgate-based company set up by property developer SAS Investments to look after Gisburn Mansions.

The block was reportedly sold for £12.3million last summer - the biggest ever property sale in a UK online auction.

Gisburn Mansions, Tottenham Lane, Hornsey

Tenants at Gisburn Mansions in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey, were served notices last November seeking to up their rents or evict them - Credit: Google Streetview

Mr Cox said the rent hike left he and his flatmates with no choice but to move out.

Claudia Rubiano, a property solicitor, lives in a two-bedroom flat in Gisburn Mansions with her daughter.

Harmondsworthit sought to hike her rent from £1,550 per month to £2,025 – a 30 per cent rise.

She filed papers to take the firm to a tribunal, saying its claim that the increases were bringing the rents in line with the market rate was “unrealistic”.

“I can’t tell you the amount of properties in Haringey I’ve refinanced,” she said. “I know how much people are paying. I work in this market."

The Ham&High also spoke to two households who were served with eviction notices.

'Devastated families'

Catherine West MP said she was contacted by six households, including "devastated" families who'd lived there for decades.

She tabled a debate in the House of Commons on Friday, January 14.

By then the Ham&High had already contacted Harmondsworthit for comment, after which the eviction notices and sizeable rent hikes were retracted for all four households we had interviewed.

Catherine West MP

Hornsey MP Catherine West tabled a debate in Parliament over the rent hikes and eviction notices in Gisburn Mansions - Credit: Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0)

Mrs West told the Commons: “Following weeks of representations by my office to the new owners, the threat of adverse publicity in our local campaigning newspaper and the help of the charity Shelter and local Hornsey Labour councillors, I learned this week that the new owners had rescinded some of those notices and offered tenants new contracts on more favourable terms.

“Although that is welcome news, sadly, for some of them, the landlord’s change of heart two months after the notices were dispatched has come much too late.”

Mr Cox and his flatmates were offered a revised increase of 13.5 per cent.

But, he said: “The new rent offer is the same amount that we offered back in November... We were told in no uncertain terms that there was no possibility of negotiation.”

By the time Harmondsworthit changed its mind, he said, it was “simply too late”.

“We have signed new leases and made other arrangements which we can’t back out of,” he said.

Ben Cox on his balcony at Gisburn Mansions

Designer Ben Cox, 42, moved into Gisburn Mansions in 2020 - but said he and his flatmates had no choice but to look elsewhere after receiving a 40 per cent rent hike - Credit: Ben Cox

Mrs Rubiano has now been offered a monthly rent of £1,700.

“I am considering their offer but have not made any decisions yet,” she said.

For now, she is liaising with the tribunal service.

Two households served with eviction notices have been offered rent increases instead, which they are considering.

What the owner says

A spokesperson for Harmondsworthit said: "Our residents’ wellbeing is of paramount importance to us and we have been working with them to mitigate any impact, as we seek to simply reduce the disparity in rents on some of the older tenancies and the newly-let homes in the block."

Gisburn Mansions, Tottenham Lane, Hornsey

Since residents contacted Catherine West MP and spoke to the Ham&High, new owner Harmondsworthit LLP has rescinded eviction notices and offered reduced rent increases - Credit: Google Streetview

They added: “We have invested substantially in Haringey over the past decade and take pride in offering high quality properties for sale and rent in the borough, playing our part as an independent, responsible landlord by contributing to the supply of much-needed local housing.

“As part of the extensive recent improvements to the building, there is an unavoidable impact on rental values, particularly where they have stayed stagnant in some cases for a number of years and fallen behind the values being achieved on similar flats in the block.

“We hope to reach agreements with any remaining tenants soon, as our significant investment in the building, as well as our improved management of it, has been largely welcomed by the community to date.”