My article for the September issue of the Muswell Hill Flyer on the scandal of extortionate letting agents' fees.
I was contacted this week by a local resident who's trying to move out of unsuitable accommodation into his own place. It's hard enough on an average income to save up the six weeks deposit and the first month's rent, but on top of that the letting agent wanted to charge him over £900 in 'fees'. It's scandalous that they can get away with such ludicrous charges - including over £200 to prepare a bog-standard tenancy agreement. Sadly they do, because there are no laws in place to stop them and demand for houses here is so high that people feel they have no choice but to pay up or miss out. It shouldn't be like this.
Private renting is now the norm in high value areas like ours and across Hornsey & Wood Green over 17,000 households now rent privately. But all too often it's expensive and insecure. Even when you've stumped up the extortionate letting agent fees and moved in, recent research showed that families privately renting here on an average income spend half their weekly wage on rent. That's way more than the third of weekly earnings Shelter guidelines suggest you should spend.
"Generation rent" needs a break.
I used my maiden speech in Parliament to talk about housing and last month, I held a policy forum here in the constituency to hear local people's concerns and thoughts about the housing issues I should be raising as your MP. Both at the forum and in my advice surgeries and emails I'm being told the same thing: people want to see greater security of tenure and protection for tenants and a crackdown on excessive 'admin' costs and letting agents fees. So do I.
The Homes Bill will be coming to Parliament this autumn and I will be calling for a better deal for renters. I want to see a ban on letting agents charging excessive fees to tenants and legislation to make any landlord fees transparent so people know what they're paying for. I want to see longer tenancies with controlled rent rises become the norm so people have stability in their home and can put down roots in the community. Simple but important steps that would stop the exploitation of families desperate for a home and make renting that bit more secure.
Underpinning all this, I want to see a big increase in housing supply through building genuinely affordable homes and bringing empty homes back into use. We need homes that young people who live, work and contribute so much to our community can afford to live in. We need homes where our children can bring up their own families so they aren't forced to move to the other end of the country.
You can read my maiden speech on housing on my website at www.catherinewest.org.uk. As your MP, I'll be doing everything I can to argue for a better deal for renters in Hornsey & Wood Green and I want to hear your experiences. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org