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This English city wants to bring in rent controls – could London be next?

Bristol Council has requested legal powers so that it can take on greedy landlords

Ed Cunningham
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Ed Cunningham
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The rental situation in the UK at the mo feels like the worst it’s been in years. Not only are rents high – with the nationwide average now a whopping £991 per month – but rooms and flats in certain cities are very, very hard to find indeed. And that’s all during a cost-of-living crisis that is seeing renters’ costs rise across the board. It’s all a bit much, tbh.

But now one British city wants to take a stand. Last week councillors in Bristol voted to control rent prices in the city and follow the example of Scotland, which is currently enjoying a seven-month freeze on all social and private rents. While local councils don’t have the legal powers to implement rent controls themselves, Bristol Council is calling on the government to grant it those powers.

Rent controls often take the form of legal limits on the amounts landlords can charge tenants, though they can also include tighter controls on eviction and more regulation of landlords. In basic terms, they’re designed to provide greater protection for tenants from landlords’ greed or negligence.

If Bristol Council is successful, it wouldn’t be the first time that the UK has had rent controls. Back in 1977, the Rent Act placed limits on how much landlords could raise rents by in residential homes. However, this was repealed by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1988.

So could rent controls come into effect in other UK cities? Well, maybe. Last year London mayor Sadiq Khan called on the government to give him the power to freeze rents in the capital. His calls apparently fell on deaf ears, though also in the pipeline is the much-delayed Renters’ Reform Bill, which could end ‘no fault’ evictions and bolster renters’ rights.

Of course, just because Bristol Council wants the government to give it rent controls doesn’t mean it’ll actually get those powers. You can find out more about tenants’ rights on the Generation Rent website here.

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