2012 has been a very, very dark, difficult and oppressive year for tenants. Mercifully, through the gloom of rocketing rents, benefit cuts, bedroom tax, arrogant scamming agents and an increasingly blasé and entitled landlord class, one shard of light pierced the darkness. Tenants everywhere are getting organised, efficiently and loudly.
“What do we want?”
“Longer secure tenancies and no above inflation rent rises (or no rises at all) and also landlord referencing.”
No, it’s not a catchy slogan, but it is heartfelt, and certain heroes are fighting hard.
First up – here’s (ahem…) a massive shout out for Edinburgh Private Tenants Group. Heroes - total legends for protesting in a humorous way, and for getting money back from the bad guys (too many bad guys to mention here, before you ask.) They, along with Shelter Scotland (and me!) have been highlighting that despite Scottish letting agents having been banned since 1984, some still charge stupid, made-up fees. Agents beware: a group of loud protestors might arrive outside your office to highlight the illegality of trying to con £500 for a ‘check-out’ fee out of impoverished.
Blackpool has a tenant’s group, as does Leeds. Londoners are blessed with Hackney Renters and Housing for the 99%. Both did sterling work highlighting the many problems of London tenants who endure a new kind of hell. Even Mark Carney, new head of The Bank of England might be onside, since he requires £250k to find a decent home, what with rents rising.
Aaanyway: here’s a festive, heart-warming and inspiring festive tale about what can be achieved when tenants are united.
It was a snowy winter during World War 1. In the chaos, some profiteering, opportunistic landlords tried to increase rents. Initially, tenants agreed to pay the usual cost but no extras, and landlords retaliated by callously given them notice. The famously, wondrously, empowered women of Glasgow organised the fight back, surrounding courts or blocking roads to stop oncoming bailiffs. The bad guys lost. Tenants won a rent freeze lasting for the duration of the war and six months afterwards.
For 2013, I predict righteous and rising tenant anger finding eloquent - possibly dramatic - expression. Rent strikes are on the cards I think, with rents devouring up to two thirds of income. There is no justification for raising prices other than sheer greed. Rent strikes could be dangerous, and might cause problems for benefit claimants, but it’s one way of making the point. Careful now.
I hope more renters adopt the EPTAG method: targeting specific cowboy operations, organising boycotts of especially shameless letting agents and, less radically, contacting councils over rogue landlords (most tenants simply move on: another hidden misery.)
I wonder if, one day, when I write a blog post and the usual random idiot comments: ‘Stop complaining - renting isn’t all that bad’ that they might be telling the truth, as if all these actions, interventions protests etc are successful, renting might safe, secure, long-term and fair. Thanks to tenant groups this might no longer a dream, but a reality.
Glasgow Rents strikes. http://libcom.org/history/1915-the-glasgow-rent-strike