A group of activists in London claim as many as 2,500 tenants are on a rent-strike during the Coronavirus crisis.
The number is based on “those who have signed up are attending campaign action meetings where they are sharing skills and information about how to tell their landlord that they will be withholding rent” according to a statement from the London Renters Union.
The LRU is also sharply criticising London’s Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, despite his statement that the upcoming end of the eviction ban represents “a ticking timebomb” for private rental tenants.
He warns that there will be a sharp increase in the number of households evicted when the ban ends on June 25 and says: “Many renters are just one pay cheque away from homelessness. It’s completely unacceptable that London renters should be facing a ticking timebomb where they could lose their home.
“The government took the required urgent action at the end of March to suspend eviction proceedings for 90 days but has then wasted the window of opportunity this presented to shore up protections for private renters.
“Suggestions that landlords and their tenants agree ‘affordable repayment plans’ between themselves is totally unfair, and unrealistic in many cases.
“Ministers still have an opportunity to steer us away from this cliff edge and avoid inflicting needless suffering on renters across the country, but they must act now.
“This crisis has exposed the poorly regulated state of the rental market which is why I’ll continue fighting for the rights of London renters in every way I can, including by giving boroughs and the Met the training and knowledge they need to protect tenants’ rights.”
However, Amina Gichinga from the London Renters Union says Khan isn’t prepared to go far enough.
“It doesn’t look like he’s prepared to back the ambitious policies that renters need if we’re going to avoid catastrophe. His stop gap proposals won’t end the threat of a rent debt and evictions crisis caused by the pandemic” insists Gichinga.
“Increasing Local Housing Allowance effectively subsidises landlords’ wealth - that’s why the government has been willing to do it before.
“And scrapping ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions is absolutely the right thing to do, but it’s already government policy. We expect London’s mayor to be more ambitious than urging the Tories to stick to their manifesto pledges.
“The London Renters Union has demanded that the government suspends rent, cancels rent debt, makes the eviction ban permanent and puts an end to racist policies that deny migrants benefits. But we’ve been ignored.”
The LRU says tenants are “prepared to resist eviction” - although it has declined to give details of what that means.