Renters protest high rents and poor standards at City Hall Meeting
Tuesday 18 December - Housing groups across London came together today to demand that members of the GLA Housing Committee at City Hall meeting hear loud and clear the views of private tenants as they form their recommendations for the private rented sector. 15-20 members of London private tenants groups Brent Private Tenants’ Rights Group, Digs, Haringey Housing Action Group and Housing for the 99% carried out a lively, vocal protest to highlight the imbalance of rights of landlords over private tenants, extortionate rents and insecure, poor quality private rented housing.
Private tenants gave out leaflets and shouted demands as London Assembly members arrived at City Hall ahead of the final meeting of the housing committee’s review of private rented housing. Many passersby expressed support for our demands as they read the leaflets (see text below) and banners some of which read ‘Cap rents, not benefits’, and ‘Admin fees do not add up’ and ‘We demand decent, secure, affordable housing for all’. Some activists adapted carol songs to highlight the housing problems and demands, whilst others chatted to passersby to gain support and encourage people to set up more local housing action groups across London. All were united in their demand to return to a situation as seen prior to 1989 where rent caps existed and tenancies were secure for everyone.
Inside the GLA meeting, a few activists brought the meeting to a standstill to deliver a book of messages from angry private tenants with demands for rent controls, longer/secure tenancies and an end to Letting Agents’ fees. The book of private tenants’ messages were given to committee chair Len Duvall who along with the rest of the committee. They now have a very good understanding of the need to take action and include recommendations in their review for rent controls and other changes within the private rented sector to ensure no tenant is evicted due to high rents or forced out of their homes and communities as a result of benefit cuts and caps or house disrepair.
Few private tenants have been invited to join these discussions despite them being about their housing situation, but with this protest we have provided a host of information from the private tenants perspective which can no longer be ignored. Christine Haigh from Housing for the 99% said, “Considering that there are 1.5m of us in London, private tenants have had pathetically little voice in this review. We’re being ripped-off with poor quality, insecure housing and urgently need action to raise standards and control rents.”
We are calling on all private tenants along with anyone concerned with the growing housing crisis to organise in their local neighbourhoods, set up private tenants groups to support one another and campaign for decent, secure and affordable housing for all.
INSIDE THE MEETING (Report by Heather Kennedy, DIGS Hackney)
The spotlight was shone on the huge issue of retaliatory evictions, where the landlord evicts and tenant for standing up for their housing rights, an action which is perfectly legal. All speakers agreed this was a very real issue for private tenants which councils had very little power to prevent.
More quotes from groups:
Jacky Peacock from Brent Private Tenants’ Rights Group said: “The number of people in poverty living in private rented accommodation has doubled in the last decade as rents have spiralled. We are now seeing families forced into acute hardship in order to pay the rent, even in places like Harlesden which is not the most luxurious part of London.”
Heather Kennedy from Digs said: “At the beginning of 2009, Boris Johnson pledged to end rough sleeping in the capital before the year was out. Instead, what do we have? We have rough sleeping up by 43 per cent since last year, with the end of a tenancy in the private rented sector being one of the most common reasons cited. Successive years of policy making have placed the agenda of landlords and letting agents over the needs of private tenants and this has to stop. ‘“Only bold action will do given the scale of the crisis. London has played host to some of the worst excesses of bad landlords and letting agents getting rich off the housing crisis. Self regulation has failed. That’s why we’re asking the GLA to recommend a workable model of rents control alongside longer default tenancies, so private tenants can build stable lives and plan for the future. We’re asking for London to follow Scotland by putting an end to bogus, opportunistic letting agent fees. But laws are nothing without enforcement, which is why we’re asking the GLA to lead local authorities in demonstrating political will in enforcing the law and protecting private tenants.”
Members of Haringey Housing Action Group said: “We demand decent, secure affordable homes for all residents of London in the area they choose to live in.”
For more information and interviews, contact:
Christine Haigh at Housing for the 99% on 07870 577934 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacky Peacock at Brent Private Tenants’ Rights Group on 020 3002 2786 or email@example.com
- Brent Private Tenants’ Rights Group runs a private tenants advice centre providing advice, advocacy and casework for private tenants. For more information, see http://www.bptrg.org/
- Digs is a private tenant information and support group, run by Hackney renters, for Hackney renters. For more information, see http://hackneyrenters.org/
- Haringey Housing Action Group meets regularly to give and receive support on housing problems and campaign for better housing. For more information, seehttp://haringeyhousingaction.org.uk/
- Housing for the 99% was formed earlier this year to bring together private tenants and others concerned about high rents, cuts to Housing Benefit and poor quality, insecure housing and take action to address these problems. For more information, seehttp://housingforthe99.wordpress.com/
- The average rent for a two-bedroom property in inner London is now £18,000 a year (Source: Shelter – Private Rent Watch). This is 40 per cent more than someone working fulltime at the National Minimum Wage would earn (£12,646) before other living costs are taken into account.
- A third of private rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes standard – almost double that of social rented homes – and almost a fifth fail basic health and safety standards. Private tenants are also most likely to live in cold and damp homes than social renting tenants or owner occupiers. There has been a 23 per cent increase in overcrowded private rented homes in the last year alone. Source: English Housing Survey.
- A Report from the New Policy Institute published in November by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2012’ reveals that there are 4 million private renters living in poverty (2010/11), up from 2 million in 2000/2001.
TEXT OF LEAFLETPRIVATE TENANTS DEMAND: Decent, Secure, Affordable Homes For All!
This is a public meeting and some of us are planning to go in, we want to make the presence of tenants and supporters felt, so please join us. At the start, we’ll be presenting our ‘Dear Santa’ scrapbook to the Chair of the Committee, Len Duvall.Click here to submit your private housing ‘Dear Santa’ message.
Length of Tenure
Tenant and Landlord Rights
Less than half of private rented homes meet the Decent Homes Standard. Many homes in London are in an appalling, dangerous condition and it is often children, the elderly and vulnerable adults who are worse affected. The link between poor housing and the health, wellbeing and life chances of tenants is striking.
The GLA should ensure that empowering tenants is central to the policy recommendations that come out of this review. Presently, landlords have many rights, and tenants have very few. This balance of power needs to be shifted so that tenants are empowered to enforce their right to be involved in all decision-making about their housing, from rent to maintenance to length of tenancy. The GLA should ensure that the voice of private tenants is heard at all levels of policy making. There is a tradition of landlords being thoroughly consulted in discussions about the private rented sector but tenants being ignored. The London Assembly has the power to see this change.