We were lucky enough to have access to Unite’s new community centre – a great space in St. George’s Town Hall, Cable Street, that’s definitely worth checking out. We also had some invaluable housing advice from Heather Kennedy of Digs in Hackney, who have been amazingly helpful over the last few weeks!
So what did we learn? Lots of those who came along had troubling private rented sector experiences to share: we heard stories of 15%-a-year rent increases, retaliatory evictions and shoddy housing conditions.
Lettings agents, of course, were high on the agenda: we knew rip-off fees were a problem, but it was shocking to hear about one agent charging £400 to each new tenant of a four-bed flat! Luckily the renter was able to bargain down. Lesson: standing your ground against dodgy practices pays off.
An even bigger concern, though, was the impact of austerity on private rental sector tenants. As the cuts kick-in nears, it looks almost certain that more landlords will refuse to let to people getting benefits, and raising that essential deposit will become even harder. That means finding somewhere to live is set to become much tougher for a growing number of housing benefits claimants, and for those that struggle, the alternative is homelessness.
We’ve all seen the ‘No DSS’ signs on rental ads, and we know these problems are already happening. But as the date of the cap approaches, the need to speak out against austerity with other movements all over Britain is becoming more and more important.
It’s just one of the reasons why Tower Hamlets Renters was set up and why we need to make ourselves heard. Thankfully, a whole lot of creativity came out of the first meeting, as well as stories: we’ve exciting plans for training sessions, research and even a day of action against lettings agents. Click on the tab above to get involved!