Nearly one in five homes in Croydon are privately rented. With private sector rents fuelling the scale of housing benefit payments, it is important to understand the nature of the private rented market, who the landlords are, and which ones need to watched closely to ensure they do not overcharge and provide safe and well repaired homes. A more detailed picture of private renting in Croydon than appeared to be available is emerging from Freedom of Information requests I lodged in July.
Wards with High Private Rental Homes
The 2011 Census shows that the Wards with the highest levels of private renting are mainly in the North of the Borough:
Bensham Manor 26.3%
Broad Green 26.9%
S. Norwood 27.5%
Thornton Health 22.4%
Upper Norwood 20.3%
W. Thortnon 25.5%
Analysis of previous censuses revealed that there could be very high concentrations in smaller parts of wards (called ‘enumeration districts’ in the 2001 Census). I asked whether the 2011 Census provided similar information. The reply states: ‘There are no official Enumeration Districts (EDs) created for the 2011 Census. EDs were used for the 2001 Census when England and Wales had 116,895 of them. The majority of these are different from their 1991 equivalents so comparisons from one census to another was difficult.’ The Council specifically says in relation to the question ‘Are there areas of the Borough where there are high concentrations of poor private landlord properties?, that it ‘does not record this information.’
Private tenants receiving housing benefit
I asked for the statistics of the private tenants receiving housing benefit in each rental band and bedroom size group? The reply states: ‘As at the 1 July 2013, Croydon has 16,641 local housing allowance (LHA) private tenant customers receiving housing benefit in Croydon and they are broken down into the following.
Bedroom Size required
Number of Customers
A Shared Room
The Council cannot provide a breakdown by rental band.’
Private Sector Leasing
The Council had a target of 1,000 dwellings for its private sector licensing scheme. It only achieved 250. I asked how many landlords and owners were approached to take part, how many units do they control and what reasons did landlords and owners give for not wanting to take part.
The reply states: ‘Accommodation providers who provide properties for the Private sector licensing scheme are on a tendered framework of providers. Tenders were invited through the London Tenders portal. The council currently has 12 active providers who lease properties from private landlords. The council cannot say how many landlords they currently deal with as the agreement is between the private landlords and themselves.’
Frankly this is ridiculous answer. The Council should be able to provide the information from the monitoring reports received by the providers. When I ran a housing association’s private sector leasing programme in the 1990s my team had to continually update the local authority with details.
As part of my FoI request I also asked what advantages the 250+ landlords and owners who have agreed to take part see in the scheme? The reply: ‘I believe you may be referring to the Croybond scheme. Assuming this is the case, the advantages of the Croybond scheme are listed below.
· Free lettings service
· Ongoing soft support to landlord and tenant
· Free tenancy documents and paperwork
· Free inventory and inspection
· Rent paid directly to the landlord’s bank account (via housing benefit)
· Deposit bond (eliminates the need to deal with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme) rent in advance/incentive payment.
The bedroom size required is assessed using the customers household make up an assessment is done on how many bedrooms the customer needs not how many bedrooms the customer has.’
Private Landlords as Council Leaseholders
Earlier in the year the trade union GMB commissioned research into the private landlord leaseholders of Wandsworth Council. This showed a number of companies were multiple owners of leases, and several individuals were also multiple owners while some of them were also involved in the companies. My FoI request sought to see what Croydon Council knew about the situation in its own properties. This is the reply:
‘Of the 2106 leasehold properties which are managed by the council, 838 have mailing addresses where the leaseholder does not live at the property, which can be broken down as follows:
· One owned by a Housing association
· 35 company addresses which are known to us as the leaseholders
· 802 named individuals which are known to us as the registered leaseholder’
Protecting Private Tenants
The Council’s involvement in protecting private tenants from bad landlords is discussed in my previous blog http://historyandsocialaction.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/croydon-intervention-to-improve-private.html.