Fundamental necessities like food and water are subject to strict regulation and inspection to make sure they’re safe and don’t damage people’s health. So why isn’t housing?
Sick of being ripped-off with sky high rents and poor quality housing, activists in Haringey took matters into their own hands, and organised a community housing inspection of local letting agents, drawing attention to high rents, short-term tenancies, discrimination against housing benefit claimants and high administration fees.
On Saturday, a team of around 20 ‘Community Housing Inspectors’ headed along Green Lanes to investigate letting agency policies. Of the agencies visited, four agreed to take part, while Winkworths, Kings Group, Bairstow Eves, Brian Thomas and Anthony Pepe all denied access or refused to speak to the self styled inspectors.
The protest took place against a backdrop of housing benefit cuts, a lack of Haringey letting agents willing to accept tenants on housing benefit, rent inflation outstripping wage inflation, and a concern that landlord and letting agent practices are leading to a significant change in the local demographic. Haringey Housing Action Group has committed to support any tenants facing eviction because they cannot pay their rent.
The protest was a success. As a member of the group said “We managed to gather information that will be of help to prospective tenants in the borough (the results will be publicly available), and we put across our demands to the letting agent staff, as well as to hundreds of passersby, many of whom told us of their own bad experiences of local letting agents. We also shut down a handful of letting agents, possibly the ones who felt they had more to hide. And we turned the tables on the letting agents who carry out checks on our homes without permission.”
Letting agents beware – this won’t be the last you hear of angry tenants.