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Tenants protest outside 'rent rise' lettings agencyThe branch office of the estate agency at the centre of the rent rise letter' argument has been the centre of a protest by an estimated 70 tenants - but with national publicity.

Letting Agent Today last week reported that the Southville branch of Bristol letting agency C J Hole had written to landlords encouraging them to raise their rents if appropriate.

On Saturday the tenants - organised the local protest group Acorn - handed to the agency a petition with approaching 12,000 signatures.

The branch wrote to landlords asking if they were "getting enough rent" and that it was "highly likely" their property was due an increase.

Acorn spokeswoman Anny Cullum called the act "bad practice" and "exploitation of our incomes" and urged CJ Hole Southville to retract the letter and to sign Acorn's ethical letting charter.

Meanwhile national newspapers including the Daily Mail and The Guardian have featured the controversy.

A spokesman for C J Hole Southville says it is important that the lettings sector should "operate on fair and free-market principles" and insists the firm's letter was to ensure that appropriate fair and free-market rents were in operation.

The firm says: "Artificially low rents will not encourage new rental properties to come forward or for investment to be made into existing assets, thereby harming the overall rental market in the locality. This benefits no-one in the longer term."

However, the manager of five other branches of C J Hole - Chris Hill - has taken to Twitter to condemn the letter, and was himself a signatory of the petition against the suggested rent rises.