February 2, 2012

In an msnbc.com exclusive, Marian Smith reporting from the London bureau, reveals how landlords in Britain's capital are evicting tenants so they can cash in on this summer's Olympic Games by charging tourists overpriced rent.

Homes in the east London boroughs where many events will be held are going for five to 15 times their typical rates as properties are rebranded as short-term "Olympic leases." Some landlords are also 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 backyards to campers during the Games – which begin July 27.

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, experts say.

In the Dalston neighborhood, one-bedroom apartments that normally cost around 300 pounds ($475) per week are now being advertised at 1,625 pounds ($2,575) per week. And in Kentish Town, which is a 25-minute train ride from the new Olympic Stadium, a five-bedroom home is being advertised at 10,000 pounds ($15,845) per week during the Games.

People who own their homes are on the opposite side of the accommodation crunch, with those who can arrange to be away for several weeks in position to rake in considerable extra cash.

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 pounds ($43) per person per night.

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Gina Stikes


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