[This is the first post from Samir Jeraj, a journalist with an interest in housing]
A new wave of tenant activism is underway in Britain. More and more people are staying in private rented housing because they cannot afford to buy housing.
The Halifax calls them ‘generation rent’.
Generation rent – doing it for themselves
Generation rent lives in housing that is getting more expensive to rent, is often of poor quality, and is increasingly managed by rogue landlords and lettings agents.
The Police and local Councils don’t have a good track record of doing something about it. So no wonder tenants are doing something about it.
In Edinburgh, a group of renters got together because the Council and Police were failing to deal with ‘abuse, threats and illegal eviction’. The actions of the Edinburgh Private Tenants’ Action Group (EPTAG) has involved targeting criminal landlords and staging protests against the charging of illegal fees by lettings agents.
Scotland has a proud history of tenant power, the 1915-16 Rent Strikes in Clydeside paved the way for the first rent controls in the UK.
Rents skyrocketed on Clydeside when thousands of workers were moved into Glasgow to work in munitions factories. Unable to pay the rising rents, 20000 tenants took part in a non-payment campaign which was predominantly led by women.
Nowerdays, the place where housing is under pressure is London. In Hackney a new group called Digs has been launched with the aim of fighting both poor standards and high prices in private housing, but also the chaos that will be unleashed by the reforms to housing benefit.
Digs, like EPTAG, is also targeting letting agent fees and poor landlords/lettings agents. One shocking issue that has emerged from their work is the casual discrimination shown by some landlords and agents.
So if you’re a tenant, get organised! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
If you’re a good landlord, then you should welcome tenant activism. They’re fighting against the reckless changes to the housing benefit system by the government, and against unscrupulous and unprofessional lettings agents. Surely on this we can agree?