London landlords are evicting tenants to cash in on the Olympic Games by charging tourists fortunes.
Homes in the east London boroughs where many events are to be held are fetching between five and 15 times their typical rates as properties are rebranded as short-term Olympic lets.
Some landlords are also apparently enforcing expensive ‘penalty’ clauses for tenants who want to remain during the gathering of the world’s top athletes.
Rent controls are almost non-existent in Britain and some Londoners told msnbc.com that the looming increase in housing costs will leave them with no choice but to leave the city for the summer.
While the Olympic Village will house some 22,000 athletes along with 6,000 coaches and officials, countless tourists, athletes’ families, journalists and sponsors will be left to jostle with 7.8 million residents for places to sleep.
The accommodation crunch is expected to be so severe that some residents are planning to rent out their gardens to campers during the Games – which begin July 27.
Antonia Bance, head of campaigns at housing charity Shelter, said: ‘We’re [seeing] landlords beginning to evict their tenants’
‘Lots of letting agents are writing clauses into contracts being signed saying you can live here with the exception of this period [during the Olympics].’
Experts say those who are evicted or displaced by huge rent increases – as well as other tenants looking to move in July and August – will struggle to find affordable alternatives due to the temporary influx of tourists paying higher rates.
Matthew Martin, Greater London area lettings director for Your-Move, said: ‘It’s all to do with supply and demand, and there’s a shortage of stock’.
As the summer approaches, he said, ‘there are going to be opportunists … people are going to pay an extortionate amount.’
Miss Bance described the case of a couple in the Newham area who will be renting out the three-bedroom house they own in a former public housing project for £15,000 for three weeks. The average rental price of a three-bedroom property in the borough is £1,189 per month.
In Dalston, one-bedroom apartments that normally fetch around £300 per week are now being advertised at £1,625 per week.
And in Kentish Town, a 25-minute train journey from the new Olympic Stadium, a five-bedroom home is being advertised at £10,000 per week during the Games.
Joanna Doniger, owner of private rental company Tennis London, which finds short-term lets for players at the Wimbledon tournament, opened a new division of the company called Accommodate London last year after being bombarded with hundreds of calls from homeowners hoping to rent out their properties during the Olympics.
Ms Doniger said she has been disappointed to discover that many prospective clients are actually investor-landlords who are kicking out their long-term tenants.
‘I’ve had to take them into the corridor and say, ‘What’s this about?” she said. ‘I just don’t think it’s right.’
David Brown, 25, moved into a property Whitechapel, east London, with four other people last October.
When their contract was drawn up, he said the estate agent was adamant that if they weren’t out by July 15 their rent would jump from £660 per week to a ‘penalty’ rate of £3,000 per week, which he cannot afford.
Darren Rebeiro, business development manager for real estate agency Keatons, which is affiliated with tourism body Visit London, said that five times the normal market rate is the agency’s common short-term asking price during the Games in the Stratford area. He said clients were ‘happy’ to pay those rates.
Elsewhere in London, tourists can expect to pay four times the usual price this summer. However, Mr Rebeiro said some agencies are seeking up to nine times the market rate.
Vincenzo Rampulla, spokesman for the National Landlords Association, said that evicting tenants wasn’t necessarily going to be a smart financial decision for landlords.
‘Do they really want to kick out the tenant who’s been paying on time all year … or are they going to want to squeeze out as much as they can for the Olympics, which is only a few weeks?’ he asked.
However, Mr Rampulla acknowledged that some landlords would be seeking to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by cashing in.
‘I know people get crazy during these kinds of things,’ he said.
In addition to the short-term rentals, spare rooms and even couches are being advertised to Olympic visitors.
A website called campinmygarden.com has also been launched as a cheap way for people to set up tents temporarily in backyards.
One listing offers space in a ‘tranquil and lovely garden with shade … on one of the nearest Victorian streets to the west of the Olympic Stadium’ for prices starting at £27 per person per night.