By Chaminda Jayanetti
The Benyon Estate, the property firm owned by the family of Britain’s richest MP, has cashed in on the London housing boom by advertising housing in Hackney at eye-watering rents.
The company owns and manages around 300 properties in De Beauvoir Town, an area in Hackney and Islington in which the family of Tory MP Richard Benyon have been major landowners for nearly 200 years.
Hackney is one of the most rapidly gentrifying parts of London amid the city’s property bubble, with house prices and rents booming over the last decade.
And the Benyon Estate has been advertising its houses and flats at sizeable rents which, while comparable with nearby properties on the market, reflect the prices that landlords can charge in the midst of the capital’s housing crisis.
The most expensive property recently advertised by the Benyon Estate was an unfurnished four-bedroom semi-detached Georgian townhouse in Northchurch Road, which was offered at £1,500 a week – that’s £78,000 in rent every year.
That property has been luxuriously refurbished, and all four bedrooms are large – but some of the Benyon Estate’s other properties have less impressive attributes.
The company advertised an unfurnished one double bedroom flat for £400 rent per week – or £20,800 a year. The flat has a large separate living room and also a small garden, but the bedroom is less than 10 square metres – arguably on the “compact” side for two adults, especially for more than £20,000 a year.
In fact, none of the 25 properties advertised by the Benyon Estate were being offered at less than £300 a week in rent – that’s £15,600 a year. An unfurnished three-bedroom house was recently on the market at £700 a week, or £36,400 a year.
The advertised properties have all now been let. It is not possible to know what rents they were eventually let out at – all that is visible is the advertised rate.
Richard Benyon’s relationship to the Benyon Estate became the source of controversy in 2014 when the company was part of a consortium that acquired the New Era Estate in East London, which has a history of providing affordable housing. After a high profile campaign by residents and media focus on the links to Richard Benyon, the consortium pulled out.
The Benyon Estate is managed by Richard Benyon’s brother Edward. Richard Benyon, the MP for Newbury, is not involved in the running of the company. The firm’s Hackney properties are listed in his entry on the parliamentary register of interests, however.
His entry in the register states: “The majority of property in these estates [including other holdings in Hampshire, Berkshire and Inverness-shire] is held in family trusts in the trusteeship of Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Limited, of which I am Director. This is the trustee of various family trusts in all of which either I or members of my wider family have beneficial interests.”
In January, the Guardian reported that 196 MPs are now acting as landlords – nearly a third of all MPs, compared to just two percent of the population at large who are believed to be letting out homes.