Renters in London are being forced into what one politician described as "rabbit hutch properties" at rents in excess of £1,000 a month as landlords cash in on the capital's booming housing market.
Small bedsits are not a new phenomenon in the capital, but with rents and house prices at record levels an increasing number of landlords are boosting their returns by splitting family homes into small studio flats, or even smaller living spaces which letting agents have dubbed "semi-studios".
The result, campaigners say, is a growing number of tiny spaces to let, some barely bigger than the recommended minimum. The Housing Act states that a studio flat need only be 110 sq ft – say 11ft by 10ft – to house two adults, while a single tenant can be accommodated in 70 sq ft – a room just 7ft by 10ft.
A search of rental websites yielded several examples of rooms where a "mezzanine sleeping area" had been erected - in practice a large shelf, usually little more than a metre from the ceiling, with room for a mattress – making the room large enough to let to a couple.
One home in west London, being marketed as a "dynamic studio flat" and available to rent for more than £1,000 a month, has a main living space measuring 9ft 6in by 9ft 3in, or just under 88 sq ft. In another nearby tenants must cook, eat and sleep in a space 10ft by 8.9ft.
Tom Copley, Labour's housing spokesman on the London Assembly, said Londoners were increasingly being forced to pay "extortionate rents for poor quality, 'rabbit hutch' properties". He added: "The home is at the centre of most people's lives, so the impact on quality of life is enormous. People ought to be able to expect a decent place to live for a reasonable rent."