In case you missed Mayoral Questions this week (yes, that really is a thing they do the London Assembly) Sadiq Khan was asked to provide an update on progress towards his pledge to establish a ‘London Lettings Agency’.
For those who don’t recall, ahead of his election last year Mr Khan pledged to: “establish a London-wide not-for-profit lettings agency to promote longer-term, stable tenancies for responsible tenants and good landlords across London”.
It was never made entirely clear what form this would take, or what unique selling point would cause landlords to flock to use the new service in favour of the professional agents who had served them so well previously, but a commitment was non-the-less made.
This week, answering questions our esteemed mayor explained: “The main need for a London-wide not-for-profit lettings agency was to help tenants by tackling rip off letting agent fees.
Having succeeded in convincing the Government to do this, I am now considering how best to take this area of work forward.”
It sounds like the Mayor may have toned down (or maybe even scrapped) his intention to set up a London-wide agency, which shows a welcome degree of pragmatism given the difficulties which the London Assembly would have faced in trying to establish an agency to rival the firms currently carving up much of London.
I for one am glad to see that the London’s most senior politician is willing to think again about interventions in the private-rented sector when it becomes clear they are either unnecessary or likely to be too costly to make a success of.
What is a little harder to explain is the reasoning. The Mayor argues that the policy is to be revised because of his success in convincing the Government of the need to ban tenant fees.
I must confess that besides a campaign statement more than a year ago, I wasn’t aware that this had been a priority, or that he had lobbied sufficiently to claim a victory, but who is to say what goes on behind the closed doors of City Hall.
Of course Mr Khan’s pre-election housing policies suggested a few more reasons for intervening and providing a not-for-profit alternative to commercial lettings agencies, but only time will tell how he will pursue his goal of improving security and stability in London’s rental market.
Rumour has it that next on London’s list is the ability to ‘name and shame’ landlords and agents prosecuted of housing related offences – which is laudable enough, but hardly a great step (or even a very positive one) towards working with the sector to promote real solutions and best practice.