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Landlords urged to ‘take advantage’ of soaring rents in ‘grotesque’ email

A London estate agent said now is ‘the perfect time to expand portfolios’ as tenants are in ‘fierce competition’

Ruby Lott-Lavigna
30 August 2022, 3.56pm

A London estate agent urged landlords to take advantage of soaring prices


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A London estate agent has come under fire for encouraging landlords to “take advantage” of soaring rents in a “grotesque” email sent as many face poverty over rising housing costs.

Politicians and housing groups have condemned David Astburys estate agent, which has two branches in north London, for sending a newsletter titled “Rents hit record highs, find out how to take advantage”, which urged landlords to get a “high return on their investment”.

Private rents in the UK have risen by their highest annual rate on record, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, leading housing economists to warn that renters may be pushed into poverty and homelessness as a result.

David Astburys’s email, which was sent on Monday, has sparked renewed demands for the UK government to regulate the housing market to prevent estate agents and landlords from continuing to exploit tenants.

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“Callous marketing communications from estate agents are grotesque but we’ll keep seeing them as long as politicians fail to take the steps we need to meet housing demand and bring rents down to affordable levels,” Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of Generation Rent told openDemocracy.

In the email, Khan Cohen, the lettings director in David Astburys’ Islington office, advised landlords to “expand their portfolio” as a lack of rental stock forces tenants into stressful bidding wars – with reports of people offering hundreds over the asking price.

“We continue to see a strong demand from those returning to London and a continued lack of stock in lettings has meant fierce competition between tenants,” Cohen said. “If you are a landlord considering expanding your portfolio, now is the perfect time.”

Sending these emails when millions are struggling with rising rents and bills is nothing short of disgusting

Renters’ rights groups have condemned David Astburys’ “disgusting” email for taking advantage of the UK’s worsening cost of living crisis.

David Astburys estate agent, which has offices in Islington and Crouch End, did not respond to request for a comment.

Speaking to openDemocracy, Nick Ballard, head organiser at ACORN (The Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now) said: “The fact that estate agents are sending out these emails at a time when millions of people are struggling with rising rents, bills and food costs is nothing short of disgusting.

“It is profiteering, plain and simple, cashing in on an opportunity to make more money from renters in the middle of a cost of living crisis.”

“Enough is enough,” he added. “The reality is people are going to die from the cold this winter, either in homes they can't afford to heat or on the streets when they're evicted.”

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Politicians have also condemned the email. Sian Berry, London Assembly member and former co-leader of the Green Party, told openDemocracy: “London renters have suffered at the hands of predatory letting agents and landlords for too long already.”

“In a cost-of-living crisis, it is nauseating to see letting companies pushing rent inflation that’s making poverty worse for thousands of Londoners as a market opportunity,” she added.

Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green in north London added that it was “galling” to see estate agents encouraging landlords to take advantage of a cost of living crisis.

“Given the extremity of the cost of living crisis for renters in the privately rented sector, it is galling to see real estate agents actively encouraging inflation-busting increases, which… has a disproportionate effect on young people struggling to make ends meet,” she added.

“The housing market in London, including in Hornsey and Wood Green, is dysfunctional and the government needs to step in to create a more even playing field for renters.”

The office for the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Greg Clarke, did not respond to openDemocracy’s request for comment.

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