Londoners confront letting agents and call for end to ‘Housing Crisis Monopoly’

This afternoon renters from North East London gathered outside high street letting agents on Upper Street to demand an end to rip off fees, spiraling rents and exploitation of private tenants.

Local campaign groups from Tower Hamlets, Islington and Hackney staged a series of fun, theatrical actions outside letting agents Foxtons, Savills and Faron Sutaria. It marked the launch of the ‘Let Down’ campaign led by ‘London Renters’, a coalition of private tenant groups.

They invited members of the public to play a game of ‘Housing Crisis Monopoly’ to highlight the negative impact of letting agents on the current housing crisis and the vulnerable position of tenants.

Campaigners called for:

  • An end to fees for tenants, as in Scotland
  • Proper regulation of letting agents
  • No discrimination against people on housing benefit
  • Action to bring rents down, and keep them under control
  • Longer secure tenancies

Londoners dressed as letting agents and Monopoly characters invited the public to play ‘Housing Crisis Chance’ and compete for an East London flat.

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‘We’re really delighted by today’s turnout and the enthusiasm of the people who came along. This is testament to the level of shared anger and frustration with greedy, dishonest letting agents,’ Heather Kennedy, of Hackney Renters, said.

The public gathered on the streets to watch the actions and shared their own bad experiences with letting agents.

Raj Singh, a private tenant who came along to the event, said: ‘When I arrived at today’s action I realised just how wide the problem of letting agents in London is. A few days ago I’d have assumed that a private tenant who gets evicted has done something wrong but speaking to people today I realise people get evicted all the time for no reason.’

There were also actions against letting agents happening in Brixton, Haringey and Herne Hill as part of the ‘Let Down’ campaign. All actions were organised by London Renters, a growing movement of people affected by the unregulated private rented sector. To find out more about these actions, click here.

Notes to editors

Most high street letting agents will charge new tenants fees of between £100 and £500 for services such as reference checks, conducting an inventory or general ‘admin’ fees. It is thought the actual cost of a tenant reference check is between £5-£20.

After moving in, many private tenants will also find themselves hit with fees of around £100-£300 to renew their tenancy agreement or check out of their property.

Foxtons charge new tenants around £400 for admin fees per tenant on top of the deposit. Felicity J Lord charge new tenants £165 per property and £60 per person. They also charge a holding deposit of £1,000 which is completely lost if the tenant fails one of the admin checks. Fees a rarely transparent and often tenants don’t find out about them until after they’ve viewed a property.

In Scotland, letting agents fees are illegal. Last autumn the law was tightened to crack down on agents charging tenants fees unlawfully.

Campaigners are calling for an end to discrimination against people on housing benefit. In 2012, researchers in Hackney found that less than 1% of private rented properties were available to people on housing benefit – either because they were unaffordable or because letting agents and landlords refused to let to housing benefit tenants.

Letting agents also have a significant role to play in the steep escalation of private rents. Shelter found that a fifth of landlords had increased their rents because letting agents had encouraged them to.

Heather Kennedy from Digs says:
“We’re really delighted by today’s turnout and the enthusiasm of the people who came along. This is testament to the level of shared anger and frustration with greedy, dishonest letting agents.

London Renters are protesting against discrimination which bars housing benefit tenants from accessing a home in the private rented sector. This has a devastating human cost, particularly because social housing and home ownership are simply not an option for many Londoners.

We’re calling on private renters like us to stand up and say we’ve had enough. For too long, tenants have been invisible as the “need” for landlords and agents to make profit has been put above the basic need for people to have a decent, secure home.

Our message to letting agents is that private tenants have had enough. Right across the country private tenants groups are springing up, demanding an end to the destructive impact of letting agents on the housing market.”

Raj Singh, private tenant from Hackney says:
“When I arrived at today’s action I realised just how wide the problem of letting agents in London is. A few days ago I’d have assumed that a private tenant who gets evicted has done something wrong but speaking to people today I realise people get evicted all the time for no reason.

When I saw the leaflet for today’s action I had a chat with my friends about the industry of swindling people and putting them in a position where they have no options. We decided to come down today – I’ve never been involved in any local political action before but this problem is so important.”

Rosie Walker, a private tenant from Hackney says:
“When I moved into a flat in Stamford Hill the agent asked for a £150 ‘security fee’ on top of the usual deposit and signing fee (about another £100). When I asked what ‘security fee’ meant, they explained that it was ‘highly recommended’ because ‘this landlord could get difficult when it comes to returning the deposit.’ In the criminal world, this is called protection money.“

Ends//

Note to editors

For more information (including time and specific location of the action) and to arrange interviews, contact (…)

Photos: If you would like any other photos then please get in touch.

London Renters: We are a coalition of private tenants groups as including –
Tower Hamlets Renters: http://towerhamletsrenters.org/
Digs: http://hackneyrenters.org/
Haringey Housing Action Group: http://haringeyhousingaction.org.uk/
Islington Private Tenants: http://islingtonprivatetenants.org.uk/

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