Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Tenants Are Revolting

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.



http://eptag.org.uk/



Glasgow Rents strikes. http://libcom.org/history/1915-the-glasgow-rent-strike


http://www.blackpool4me.com/Blackpool4Me/Community/YourArea/BlackpoolResidentsFederation/Blackpool+Private+Tenants+Forum.htm


http://www.leedstenants.org.uk/page/communities/support-tenants-and-residents-groups

http://hackneyrenters.org/


http://housingforthe99.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/renting_rip-off/



44 comments:

Jill said...

Why do you say that landlords are more blase and entitled? I'm curious where you see this trend happening.

(my landlord seems exactly the same in this regard as the other landlords I've had, but you might well get information I don't)

RenterGirl said...

There is no empirical evidence here. Only mass anecdotal research: all of my friends, search terms, and emails. The official research was IMHO flawed (see The Rugg report) and while many tenants say they re happy, low expectations must be factored in. Some charities have done some studies, which initilly point the finger t BTL landlords, who are not trained, nd rarely licensed.

space cadet said...

And of course all the reams of press coverage that's being given over to this now. You have all the evidence you need.

RenterGirl said...

I know. Some of them written by me. But the tide is turning, and people are waking up to the idnignities of renting.

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl, have you ever said anything nice about Landlords?

I had a single mother, who lost her job due to ill health. She was in hospital. Recovering at home. Housing Benefit refused to pay her rent. They rejected her claim. Letting Agent advised I should evict her due to her arrears. I over ruled them.

The State let her down. It was me, her landlord who helped her. I certainly did not feel right throwing a single mother and her child onto the streets.

The tenant was sick, yet she had to have a bitter battle with the housing benefit. It took them 5 months before they paid up.

My tenant often says "you are a very good Landlord".

It is only the unhappy tenants who complain. Good tenants don't hit the forums and saay how wonderful their landlord is.


Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Lewisham tenants have just started a new tenants group too that is focussed and run by committed activists too and lets not forget the gloriously named Cally Cows so named after their landlord, who owns half the Caledonia Road in Kings Cross described his tenants as cash cows to be milked.

Probaby similar to the loathsome Stuart Laws of assetz PLC who said in a recent interview in Money week Magazine "‘I keep saying, year after year – sell your retail shares. In the end, this is all going to come home to roost on the high street. Because I will keep putting rents up, and will find tenants who will pay the rent, and they will stop buying handbags, and stop going out for expensive meals. I will have that money. I will decimate the high street. So sell the retails shares.’

There are some great landlords out there, people like HMO Landlady but there are also plenty of Stuart Laws' too

RenterGirl said...

Cally Cows have dipped from the radar lately, but I mentioned them in my Guardian article. Do you have link for the Lewisham group, please? And thta vile landlord is asking...asking to be picketed and closed down. Rents strikes are tricky, and a legal minefield. with many dangers. But it's going to happen. And it worked in Glasgow...

RenterGirl said...

Yes, I have written about nice landlords: some are gret (like my current Landgirl.) It's just that they are a rarity.

http://rentergirl.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/hug-landlord.html

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Twitter link is here http://twitter.com/LewishamTenants

Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/LewishamPrivateTenants

I seem to recall that in the Glasgow actions of 1917 it was all run by women Mary Paterson organising? And they would gather at properties to confront bailiffs coming to evict and rip their trousers off before chasing them up the street. What a lovely thought, and now we have camera phones to catch the fun

RenterGirl said...

Yep. There wasn't enough room for the whole story. And it ended with tanks in George Square in front of the Town Hall. And - briefly - some security.

http://glasgowguardian.co.uk/uncategorized/the-battle-of-george-square/

RenterGirl said...

Oh and Anon - I'm glad you were humane enough to wait for your claiming tenant to get their HB. But it's something I restate many times: letting property is a business, and there are risks. Any landlord who cannot cope with such situation shouldn't be dabbling. Tenants die, lose work etc. Landlordism is risky. But the rewards are huge. After twenty years.

craigs clock said...

tenants are scum where i live

RenterGirl said...

Treated or seen as scum. But not actual scum.

Barney from Newington said...

"Rocketing rents"

I would be interested to see if you have any evidence to back up this claim as I am not aware of any large rent increases this year.

According to Citylets rents in Scotland rose at 1% this year which is a fall of 1.6% if you adjust for inflation.

http://www.citylets.co.uk/reports/property-rental-report-q3-12/

According to Belvoir since 2008 rents have fallen by 2.4%.
http://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/True-picture-of-rent-movements-defies-hype-says-Belvoir

These reports would confirm my understanding of the true state of the rental market market and make a mockery of the constant rents are soaring headlines you get in the press.

RenterGirl said...

This blog is concerned about renting all overt the uK, and there are many places where rents are rocketing - such as London, the South of England, Manchester, and parts of Scotland. They are not rocketing in a few places, like Glasgow for example.

Anonymous said...

Barney from Newington said...
"Rocketing rents"

I would be interested to see if you have any evidence to back up this claim as I am not aware of any large rent increases this year.



LSL show an annual increase of 3.4%-
http://www.lslps.co.uk/documents/Buy_to_Let_Index_oct12.pdf

Not rocketing but above the rise in average earnings and inflation.

IMO, the VOA offer the most reliable statistics on rent increases (but even that is flawed). A search through here will find areas where rents are 'rocketing' or 'plummeting'. The lettings industry or the charity industry can spin examples to suit their business model-
http://www.voa.gov.uk/corporate/statisticalReleases/121213_PrivateResidentialRentalMarketStatistics.html

Regards, HB Welcome

RenterGirl said...

Stats...stats...rising above the ability to pay counts as rocketing on my planet. And yes, when letting agents brag about rents asked, not rents achieved, and incorporate and above annual (occasional every six months) above inflation rise into letting agreements, the truth is out there somewhere.

Dazzla said...

Rents are rocketing where the work is, and falling where the work isn't. This is all fine if you don't have to work, but a problem if you do. The North-south divide is coming back with a vengeance, and I think we're going to see a return to the days when you couldn't go into a lot of town centres like Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow without fear of being mugged or worse because there was no work there, and no decent places to live. Manchester might escape this fate because of the BBC, but it's not certain because the Beeb can't regenerate the whole city - it's struggling with just Salford.

People tend to forget what these places were like before the regeneration initiatives of the 90s.

Barney from Newington said...

From the replies given I accept that in some parts of the UK rents may be rising by more than inflation. It is probable that in these same parts of the UK wages will also be rising by above inflation.

This slight increase is not rents "Rocketing" if you looked at a chart of rent rises adjusted for inflation then the line would be horizontal. Rocketing would be if the line was vertical.

Therefore the emotive use of the word "Rocketing" is just more propaganda to exploit the gaps in the knowledge of our politicians and convince them to take action to solve a problem that does not actually exist.

RenterGirl said...

Oh it's Barney, back for another troll-fest. I am sure we both select our sources. I prefer the Joesph Rowntree Foundation's figures: rent rises might actually be stalling growth (apart from being a rip-off.) Rent controls are needed. And fast.

Anonymous said...

Barney from Newington said...

From the replies given I accept that in some parts of the UK rents may be rising by more than inflation. It is probable that in these same parts of the UK wages will also be rising by above inflation.

This slight increase is not rents "Rocketing" if you looked at a chart of rent rises adjusted for inflation then the line would be horizontal.


Even adjusted for inflation, the following social sector increases aren't horizontal. Perhaps not rocketing in the literal sense but I'd guess it meets with most people's definition;

http://www.potteye.co.uk/stoke-on-trent-council-house-rents-rocket-by-25-in-just-4-years/

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenancies/council-approves-rent-rise-of-almost-10-per-cent/6520045.article

http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2012/jan/council-tenants-face-whopping-8-rent-increase-town-hall-blames-government-cuts

Regards HB Welcome

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl said...
I prefer the Joesph Rowntree Foundation's figures: rent rises might actually be stalling growth (apart from being a rip-off.) Rent controls are needed. And fast.


That's not the conclusion of the authors of this recent Joseph Roundtree Foundation report (well worth a read);

http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/rented-accommodation-private-sector-full.pdf

Imposing rent and tenure security constraints in the UK would have particularly adverse effects because of the extent of general housing shortages.

Regards, HB Welcome

Anonymous said...

Earlier this year, my then landlady increased my rent by £135 a month. Id say that was a little above inflation.

I finally brought a place in October. My mortgage payments are about £500 a month. Renting my property would have cost about £900.

Something is very very wrong with this picture

Dazzla said...

"It may be the case that large-investors begin to find residential investment more
attractive but, if they do, the outcomes should be left to market forces."

It would be interesting to compare this report with any recent changes in the makeup of the Rowntree Foundation. Blindly trusting 'market forces' got us into the current shitstorm. I think it's time to actually think about what we're doing, decide what to do and do it rather than continuing to wallow in free market ignorance.

RenterGirl said...

Barney, some people, IMHO wrongly, believe that the old-school rent ceiling is wrong. Shelter support a limit on rent rises of no more than inflation. At the moment it's the wild west with profiteering. Like with energy prices. You're welcome!

RenterGirl said...

And Barney: since this post is about tenants getting organised, I trust you approve? nd aren't just trolling your own seperate agenda - ie that you're a landlord opposed to well... frankly alll regulation no matter how much it is needed and against anything that helps tenants. Anything at all.

Barney from Newington said...

Rent control is not a new idea it was tried before and failed.

All it will lead to is a reduction in the amount of properties to rent and run down properties that landlords cannot afford to maintain.

Regarding tenant groups getting organised that is there right. I do think though that Shelter are responsible for stirring up a lot of the trouble between landlords and tenants.

I know that letting agents in Scotland are also getting organised following the premiums and tenancy deposit scheme legislation this year never having had to do so before.

In a way it is like armies mobilising getting ready for war and like war it is all getting very silly.

Anonymous said...

Barney is a bit of joke. Stoke Newington is a trendy hotspot. Just look at all the people who want to live there. You then wonder why rents going going up there?.

Why not move to somewhere dull and boring, where rents are stable.

space cadet said...

Anyone who thinks that "Shelter are just stirring up trouble" is clearly so far up their own selfish every-man-for-himself uncharitable uncaring arse, that he can't even smell his own bullshit. Go away you moron.



Dazzla said...

"Rent control is not a new idea it was tried before and failed"

How did it fail? It was superseded by a new orthodoxy, which has failed. Rent control didn't fail.

Barney from Newington said...

SC: Shelter are a tenant's pressure group that are funded by passing themself off as a homeless charity.

They have done tremendous damage to the allocation of housing within the social sector and now have their sights set on doing the same to the private rental sector.

If you want to help the homeless then please give your money to Dr Barnados or the Salvation Army that do proper direct charitable work to help the homeless.

If you want to fund a tenant's pressure group then please give your money to Shelter.

RenterGirl said...

Barney: we WANT landlords to get organised. And regsitered. And trained. And to be properly accountable. And letting agents? Nobody will miss them. Many landlords despise them. Shelter stirring up trouble? Like... getting proper advice is stirring up trouble? Damn these troublesome plebs!

Barney from Newington said...

RG:

I think this is a good example of Shelter's stirring it up to create tension between tenants and landlords:

http://media.shelter.org.uk/home/press_releases/almost_one_million_people_victim_of_landlord_scams,_shelter_research_reveals3

This is not Shelter giving advice it is alarmist, exaggerated, landlord bashing nonsense.

I would expect better from a charity.





Anonymous said...

Barney from Newington said...
Rent control is not a new idea it was tried before and failed.


Shelter are not proposing going back to full rent control as before.

They are proposing that inflation linked annual rent increases are written into AST's.

If you take your anti-Shelter hat off for a minute, what is so unreasonable about that?

Everyone knows where they stand, it takes away the uncertainty and leads to more stable tenancies.

Shelter are certainly not proposing rent caps- if anything they argue against them.

There is quite a bit of nonsense in the rest of their 'stable rent contract' but the rent increase element is sensible enough- although it should be linked to RPI not CPI as RPI includes housing costs.

Regards, HB Welcome.

RenterGirl said...

There should be rent offciers to set rents. Market forces have crucified tenants: when people can charge what they like, that's exactly what they do. And where there is finite supply of an essential item - that is - a home, profiteering should be outlawed. Tenants cannot shop around: moving is costly, unsettling and debilitating. That's why tenants are getting angry and organised, and also why there will be controls enacted, especially re the main villains here: letting agents who needlessly incorporate rent rises. Tenants are s mad as hell, and they can't take any more.

Dazzla said...

"I think this is a good example of Shelter's stirring it up to create tension between tenants and landlords:"

Barney, what specific problems have you identified with this particular report?

Dazzla said...

Also, I think a national tenants' pressure group would be an excellent idea, but it couldn't come anywhere near to exerting the influence of the rentier lobby and Shelter certainly isn't one.

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl said...
"There should be rent offciers to set rents."


Well, maybe.
Rent Officers, and by default Rent Assessment Committees make fair and balanced rent decisions, examples here;

http://www.residential-property.judiciary.gov.uk/search/decision_search.jsp

But I think they would struggle to cope and the extra cost would be huge.

I'm more inclined to agree with the arguments set out by Shelter and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation that capping is not the way forward.

I'm in agreement about controls over rent increases during tenancies.

"Market forces have crucified tenants: when people can charge what they like, that's exactly what they do. And where there is finite supply of an essential item - that is - a home, profiteering should be outlawed."

Does that apply to property sales as well?

"That's why tenants are getting angry and organised"

Good.

"the main villains here: letting agents who needlessly incorporate rent rises."

Agreed.

Regards, HB Welcome

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl said...
"There should be rent offciers to set rents."


Well, maybe.
Rent Officers, and by default Rent Assessment Committees make fair and balanced rent decisions, examples here;

http://www.residential-property.judiciary.gov.uk/search/decision_search.jsp

But I think they would struggle to cope and the extra cost would be huge.

I'm more inclined to agree with the arguments set out by Shelter and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation that capping is not the way forward.

I'm in agreement about controls over rent increases during tenancies.

"Market forces have crucified tenants: when people can charge what they like, that's exactly what they do. And where there is finite supply of an essential item - that is - a home, profiteering should be outlawed."

Does that apply to property sales as well?

"That's why tenants are getting angry and organised"

Good.

"the main villains here: letting agents who needlessly incorporate rent rises."

Agreed.

Regards, HB Welcome

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl said...
"There should be rent offciers to set rents."


Well, maybe.
Rent Officers, and by default Rent Assessment Committees make fair and balanced rent decisions, examples here;

http://www.residential-property.judiciary.gov.uk/search/decision_search.jsp

But I think they would struggle to cope and the extra costs involved would be huge.

I'm more inclined to agree with the arguments set out by Shelter and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation that capping is not the way forward.

I'm in agreement about controls over rent increases during tenancies.

"Market forces have crucified tenants: when people can charge what they like, that's exactly what they do. And where there is finite supply of an essential item - that is - a home, profiteering should be outlawed."

Does that apply to property sales as well?

"That's why tenants are getting angry and organised"

Good.

"the main villains here: letting agents who needlessly incorporate rent rises."

Agreed.

Regards, HB Welcome

Penny Anderson said...

Dazzla: I am searching for the 'favourite' and 'like' button, for both comments. As for Barney: he's a bitter troll. There is no point engaging him. We all know that tenants are not perfect: that there can be problems. But agents and landlords will never admit that their brethren do a lot of bad stuff. It's the free market, which they treat like a superhuman sentient super being. Which can do no wrong.

space cadet said...

I do wish you'd answer Dazzla's questions Barney .. because that's two you've ignored.

If anyone is being alarmist, I think it's you. It sounds to me, like you're running a little scared.. all your talk of armys and troops.. funny really.

Barney from Newington said...

Re: The Shelter report the specific points I would disagree with are:

The idea that 1 million people are victims of landlord fraud is utterly ridiculous. To give you a scale of how big a number this is - there are only 1.4 million buy to let mortgages in the UK.

For the five items listed as fraud by Shelter three of the items relate to criminals posing as landlords.

For the other two items it would be difficult to recognise these as fraud.

In short this report is a disgrace.

mark driscoll said...

Just had the pathetic two months notice to leave my rubbish flat. So in the next 2 months I have to find 2 grand to move to the next place, such as rent up front, deposit, and compulsory cleaning by professionals at my present place, oh and removals. Thank heaven's for payday loans thats the sad reality.