Corporate landlord accused of abusing tenants' human rights by UN
The UN has accused a corporate landlord with more than 2,000 homes in the UK of ‘trampling’ on the human rights of its tenants.
Akelius Residential’s ‘aggressive’ strategy left residents in three countries unsafe living conditions and saw some threatened with eviction so profitable renovations could be pushed through, UN housing spokesperson Leilani Farha said.
She accused the company, which is headquartered in Sweden, of behaving in a way that is ‘inconsistent with international human rights law’ in the UK, Canada and Germany.
Ms Farha said: ‘Akelius’s business model, driven by the desire to maximise profits, has created a hostile environment for its tenants through a severe degradation of housing conditions, higher rents and increased risk or threat of eviction.
‘I have been told that Akelius purchases apartment blocks, often with tenants already living in them, and then undertakes renovations to communal areas and vacant apartments within the block, regardless of need.
‘These renovations are a vehicle for Akelius to charge substantially increased rents to both new and existing tenants, enabling it to circumvent vital rent-control regulations which commonly allow for above-control rent increases where modernization works are undertaken.’
She did not clarify which regulations were being dodged in the UK, which does not have strict caps on rent increases but allows tenants to challenge hikes in tribunals if they seem out of line.
Canada has legal limits on rent increases, while parts of Germany control rent levels.
It was claimed that renovations have left residents in ‘unsafe construction sites’ for months, sometimes without running water and central heating.
Ms Farha added: ‘Some tenants have also been threatened with eviction to enable further renovations to take place.’
Akelius Residential has 2,242 rental apartments in London worth around £830 million altogether, with another 42,000 units worldwide.
The company’s global accounts show its average rents in London increased 26.7 per cent in the five years up to 2019, compared to a city-wide average of 13.9 per cent according to HomeLet’s figures.
Its properties tend around mid-market rent levels and do not appear to include social housing.
The company is mostly owned by a charity called The Akelius Foundation.
Ms Farha continued: ‘Although it does a lot for charity, Akelius’s business model is trampling on the human rights of its tenants, decreasing housing habitability, affordability and security of tenure.
‘Commercial landlords like Akelius have an independent responsibility to respect human rights, which means that they must conduct human rights due diligence in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address adverse impacts on the right to housing.’