Hundreds of housing campaigners protested outside letting agents across London to demand an immediate freeze on "exorbitant" private rents.

More than 200 members of the London Renters Union (LRU) demonstrated outside Foxtons, Winkworth and other letting agents in Tottenham, Bow, Stratford, Hackney, Willesden and Crystal Palace on Saturday (December 3).

In Tower Hamlets, a group of protestors gathered outside Winkworth, Roman Road, from 12pm. 

According to LRU caseworker Clare Walden, Winkworth has seen approximately a 76 per cent increase in its revenue last year. 

She said: "What we're seeing is estate agents literally advertising to landlords, 'if you come with us, we'll get you even more rent than you're already getting'.

"So they're playing a big role in perpetuating the unaffordable rent crisis that renters are facing."

East London Advertiser: A demonstrator's sign reads Homes 4 allA demonstrator's sign reads Homes 4 all (Image: Newsquest)

The LRU wants to see a Scotland-style emergency rent freeze implemented in England, as well as the abolition of "no-fault" evictions.

Clare continued: "The two biggest issues we're seeing with our members right now are unaffordable rent rises and, off the back of that, landlords are saying, 'you've got two days to tell me if you're going to be able to pay another £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000 in rent next year and if you don't tell me that I'm going to give you a Section 21 notice on Monday and then you're going to be homeless - we're going to evict you'.

"The two are very much linked and the government have said for ages they're going to ban Section 21 - which is no fault evictions.

"They've put off actually legislating that for three years.

"We desperately need no fault evictions to be banned because renters have no ability to stand up to unaffordable rent rises while this threat of eviction always hangs over them."

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities said: "We understand the cost of living pressures that households are facing, however evidence suggests rent controls in the private rented sector do not work. They discourage investment and lead to declining property standards.

"Our White Paper set out plans to deliver a fairer deal for private renters, including empowering them to challenge unjustified rent increases. We will bring forward legislation in this parliamentary session."

East London Advertiser: Tarek and his housemate Sophie who live in Poplar and LimehouseTarek and his housemate Sophie who live in Poplar and Limehouse (Image: Newsquest)
Tarek, 30, who did not wish to give his last name, is a researcher who lives in Poplar and Limehouse.

He said about two months ago his landlord attempted to increase his rent by 43 per cent.

Tarek said: "We've negotiated it down to 20 per cent, which is still massively high and way higher than the inflation increase.

"But it was ridiculous that we had to negotiate it down to something that was still really high.

"It's quite obvious that the mortgage cost has gone up so they're just passing that onto the renter - me - and they just tried to get as much as they could out of it.

"The letting agent said that the 43 per cent was just reflective of what rental prices were like in Poplar and Limehouse, which wasn't true."

He added: "It's such an exorbitant amount and for a lot of people it means having to sacrifice a lot of things - the food that they eat and then their nutrition, their welfare... 

"A lot of people in our branch are left homeless because of these rent increases."

East London Advertiser: Another demonstrator's sign reads Justice for disabled rentersAnother demonstrator's sign reads Justice for disabled renters (Image: Newsquest)

A 25-year-old man from Bow, who did not wish to give his name, said: "I'm demonstrating because I've lived in London for eight years now and I've probably paid £65,000 in rent over that time.

"It just keeps going up and I keep having to pay more and with that sum of money I could have just bought a house. 

"Instead, I've just spent ages living in substandard conditions. 

"Where I live now various things don't work - we don't have a working washing machine, the lights don't work, we have to fix things ourselves because the landlord takes ages to get round to doing them.

"This year they raised rent by £100 per month and I felt grateful because it wasn't more than £100.

"Around 60 per cent of my cheque - if not more - goes into somebody else's pocket at the start of every month. 

"It means that instead of me thinking about improving my home, I'm constantly ready to move out of my home because if the rent goes up I'll just go.

"It also feels like I can't put down roots in any neighbourhood because I'm constantly getting pushed further and further away from the centre of London.

"It's very difficult to make ties with neighbours, difficult to build a community when you feel like in a year or two you're probably going to have to move on."

Responding to the points raised by the LRU, Winkworths did not address its revenue but sent a statement including the following points: "The acute shortage of homes for private rent and the subsequent rises in rent, as demand outstrips supply, needs to be addressed urgently by the Government.

"Winkworth, along with the rest of our industry, has been highlighting the problem for some considerable time.

"The Government has continued to introduce new measures which are designed to discourage private landlords and, as a result, large numbers of landlords are leaving the sector.

"Meanwhile, the Government is not building enough homes for social rent to give people an alternative option.

"The government needs to take immediate action that will result in more private homes for rent. It is vital that people can continue to rent a home and work in London and other major cities."

According to the LRU, homelessness among private tenants is at record highs in many boroughs and Section 21 evictions are up 76 per cent this year.

The Scottish government introduced an emergency freeze on most rents in October for six months until March 2023.