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UN points finger at corporate landlord for abusing human rights

The United Nations has accused a corporate landlord with more than 2,000 UK properties of breaching tenants’ international human rights.

Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, said the firm is creating a hostile environment for tenants by overseeing degrading housing conditions, hiking rents and threatening eviction.

Akelius Residential is a Sweden-headquartered company that operates in the UK, Canada and Germany, and manages 44,000 rental apartments worth £10.46bn.

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.”

In Canada, parts of the Germany and parts of the US rent increases are controlled, but these rules are apparently being circumnavigated.

Farha added: “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.”

The renovations are said to have left residents living in unsafe construction sites for months, sometimes without running water and central heating.

Farha said: “Some tenants have also been threatened with eviction to enable further renovations to take place.

“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.”

Akelius Residential posted a profit of £406m in 2019.