Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We're All Cowboys in a Wild West Rental Market So Rejoice for This Christmas Gift of Regulation

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We're All Cowboys in a Wild West Rental Market So Rejoice for This Christmas Gift of Regulation

Article excerpt

Byline: Ellen E Jones

YOU can keep your PS6,000 Hamilton tickets my daughter's nursery-school nativity play was easily the best show in town this week. There were cute kids in angel costumes, a rousing sing-along chorus of Away in a Manger, and while the narrator's memory of the Bible story did seem hazy in places (" and then the shepherds went off to . er wherever it is they were going"), she got away with it. The audience was a) made up of doting parents and b) mostly Muslim anyway.

Personally, I could never forget the original Christmas story. Anyone who has ever experienced the London rental market at this time of year, while also heavily pregnant, has the words "no room at the inn" echoing eternally in their ears. As you may recall, Mary, Joseph and the newborn baby Jesus ended up housed among farmyard animals in a barn for that first Christmas Day. Or, to use the modern letting agents' parlance, they bagged themselves a "pet-friendly, open-plan cottage conversion with an organic farmer's market literally on the doorstep!" Three years ago I would have expected to pay PS1,600 a month plus bills for something similar in South Tottenham or Mile End.

This year, though, Christmas has come early for Londoners with the launch of a partial solution to the capital's housing problems. Prospective renters in Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Kingston, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Westminster will now be able to access an online database of information on local landlords and letting agents. Eight more councils have agreed to submit records soon. This means that in a market which is heavily weighted in favour of property owners, renters have at least one means of protecting themselves against the worst practices of unscrupulous landlords. And contrary to some of the spin, this will be good for the majority of decent landlords too. …

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