Landlord Hiking Rent Over $1,000 Suggests 'Food Banks' To Tenants

A British property firm suggested that distraught tenants try looking into "food banks" after raising rent by £950 ($1,094) a year for some of its London tenants.

The Benyon Estate, which owns 371 properties in London, refused tenants who pleaded for reconsideration of the rent hike in an email seen by the i on August 31.

"Although the Estate is very sympathetic to the increased cost of living, they will be unable to accommodate your request for a rent reduction at this time," said the message to tenants whose rent went up by 3 percent. Instead, the firm offered to send "a number of links to various services such as food banks etc...should they be of interest."

The Benyon Estate's rent hike comes amid a cost of living crisis in the U.K., where private rental prices rose 3.2 percent over the 12 months up to July 2022—the largest jump since 2016, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The Bank of England forecast a prolonged recession in August, while financial services group Citi predicted that inflation will hit 18 percent in the first quarter of 2023.

London has the country's lowest rental price growth at 2.1 percent, making the 3 percent increase for some tenants of the Benyon Estate higher than average for the area.

Soaring energy bills have dealt another blow to U.K. households, exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and reduced gas supplies to Europe. Ofgem, the country's energy regulator, raised the energy price cap by 80 percent last month—taking the average customer's gas and electricity bill to £3,549 ($4,087) a year.

Englefield House
Aerial photograph of the Englefield House, owned by the Benyon family for 300 years, on September 26, 2010. The Benyon Estate refused tenants who pleaded for reconsideration of a £950 ($1,094) rent hike. David Goddard / Contributor/Getty Images Europe

A spokesperson for the Benyon Estate told Newsweek, "As part of their tenancy agreement, each new tenant of the Benyon Estate is advised that rent will usually be reviewed an annual basis, with reasonable notice given."

The firm also said that "the information given in a private email appears to have been misconstrued and taken out of context."

The Benyon Estate is owned by the family of Conservative politician Richard Benyon, former MP for Newbury and the current minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity. In 2021, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson made Benyon a life peer in the House of Lords.

Lord Benyon was worth £130 million ($150 million) in 2019, according to the Sunday Times' Rich List. He lives in the 14,000-acre Englefield Estate, which his family has owned for 300 years. Films and television shows including The Crown, The King's Speech and Great Expectations have been shot at the Elizabethan mansion.

Lord Benyon and his younger brother Edward Benyon, the estate manager for the family's London property portfolio, previously drew criticism over a contract to take over the New Era estate—a decades-long site of affordable housing—in 2014.

The Benyon brothers pulled out of the consortium that purchased the estate after a high-profile protest outside its offices, led by comedian and activist Russell Brand.

Update: 09/06/22 2:58 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from a spokesperson for the Benyon Estate.