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Written by rosalind renshaw

Letting agents in London were targeted on Saturday in an angry city-wide protest by demonstrators.

Some agents who had got wind of the ‘Let Down’ demonstration beforehand decided to stay shut for the day while Foxtons, in Brixton, hired security officers. Others locked their doors as the protesters tried to enter and make agents answer their ‘survey’.

The protests followed similar action last autumn in Haringey. Saturday’s demonstrations were in Islington, Haringey, Herne Hill and Brixton, and took the form of tours of agency offices by self-appointed community housing inspectors, wearing high-visibility jackets.

Some letting agency offices were cordoned off by the protesters who used tape to make them look like ‘crime scenes’. Some of the agents were served with ‘cease and desist’ notices for supposedly criminal behaviour against tenants.

Passers-by were given leaflets while the demonstrators used loud hailers to get their messages across.

The protesters were demonstrating against “extortionate” letting agent fees, with accusations of greed, exploitation and profiteering; promoting unaffordable rents; offering insecure tenancies; and discriminating against people on benefits and low wages.

A particular demand is for letting agents’ fees to be outlawed, as they are in Scotland. In London, the protesters claim that tenants are charged between £100 and £500 for admin, reference checks and inventories, plus £100 to £300 renewal.

In Haringey, ‘cease and desist’ notices were served on eight agents – Wilkinson Byrne, Easy Property, A1 Estates, Hane Estates, Kings Lettings, Winkworth, Bairstow Eves and Brian Thomas.

Strictly speaking, a cease and desist notice is an order or request to halt an activity and not to repeat it – or face legal action.

In Islington, the protest had a Monopoly theme with members of the public being invited to play a game called Housing Crisis Chance, while another demonstration was led by musicians. In Brixton, the demonstrators awarded the ‘worst letting office’ certificate to Foxtons, which only opened there last month and has previously been targeted with graffiti.

Several tenants’ groups took part in the protests led by London Renters, including Islington Private Tenants, Tower Hamlet Renters, Haringey Action Group, the People’s Republic of Southwark, and Digs.

The protesters are saying that Saturday’s action, which was organised via social networks, was just the beginning of a series of housing-related events throughout London. They have already declared that they will continue to monitor and visit letting agents.

It is thought similar protests could be being planned elsewhere in the country, according to Heather Kennedy of the campaign group Digs.

She said desperate tenants were at the mercy of “greedy, dishonest letting agents” who were getting away with charging for a service “that is often shoddy or downright criminal”.

She added: “We are 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.”

She added: “Letting agents encourage landlords to increase rents. They collude with mortgage lenders and landlords to make the private market inaccessible to people most in need, those on benefits or low incomes.

“We call on letting agents and MPs to follow the example of Scotland by scrapping rip-off fees. And we must remove the totally unacceptable 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.”

For a taste of Saturday’s demonstration, see the link below.

http://haringeyhousingaction.org.uk/return-of-the-community-housing-inspectors-short-video/

 

Comments

  • icon

    Well said Rupe, letting agents are a disgrace. And Jimmy V, that Richard White character ruined the reputation of all letting agents for good.

    • 23 January 2014 15:13 PM
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    "Pathetic 'do-gooders' just out to stroke their own ego."

    The law itself is based on what is right and wrong. If you see what is "right" and "good" as pathetic and hence do not believe in justice or the rule or law perhaps you should uproot and go and live in the jungle. You are a disgrace to humanity.

    • 16 January 2014 16:24 PM
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    With the enormous scandal in January with the letting agent Richard White being outed as an online troll and harasser of women, letting agents seem to be sinking to an all time low, on a par with bankers and politicians.

    The industry is absolutely ripe for reform and the protestors are absolutely right.

    • 15 January 2014 21:26 PM
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    Well said Steve. This women must think that property investors are running some sort of charity for people who are in financial difficulties; she is wrong, social housing is designed to offer homes to people in difficulties, not private property investors. These protestors are fighting the wrong battle, suggesting that fees in Scotland were ‘rip off’ is ill informed at best and more likely just stupid. Managing properties for landlords and delivering a service, and homes, to tenants is a business and about making profits in return for a great service. Not all tenants are in financial difficulties, in fact the vast majority are not and they want to pay for a first class service!

    • 01 May 2013 18:34 PM
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    Quote:

    "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"

    Right-ho Heather. So logically you must also think that farmers and supermarkets mustn't be allowed to earn a living from providing food.

    If you object to people making a profit from providing homes on the grounds that they're a basic necessity you should also object to people making a profit from providing food.

    I look forward to Heather's explanation of how the economy will function when people are only allowed to earn a living from providing luxury or non-essentail goods and services.

    • 01 May 2013 11:40 AM
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    Heather, stop looking at private sector housing with public sector contact lenses and foghorn your rhetoric to Whitehall.

    We work for the landlord and If I'm to assume you're educated enough to grasp that principle then I shouldn't have to explain it's process or defend your hysterical allegations.

    If you need a 'roofy' to f*ck us, it's hardly the higher ground and when you take the socialist out your mouth and apply a little perspective, the sound bites aren't that sensational. Sure, some of us operate with abandon but to lay every social ill at our doorstep whilst you deliberately ignore that agency is a business is cowardly.

    • 30 April 2013 13:49 PM
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    @Heather, with respect, the barrier to Agents or Landlords letting to Social tenants is more to do with the difficulties associated with how Housing Benefit and Local Housing allowance is paid out. It is not an agent generated discrimination against social tenants.

    Housing benefit and Local Housing allowance is paid out 4 weekly, 6 weeks in arrears giving rise to 25 (13 HB/LHA payments 12 top ups) rent payments per year, spread over 58 weeks for a 12 month tenancy.
    Most Agents can not work out how to administer such a complicated and archaic system so don't bother.

    Putting aside any political comment on the rights and wrongs of Universal Credit, the Universal Credit system will enable 25 payments to become 12 and make Social tenancies far more palatable to Agents.

    There are other pressures on social tenants too, if you would like to talk to someone who is taking a slightly less forceful approach to addressing this apparent discrimination please ask Ros Renshaw for my contact details.

    • 30 April 2013 10:14 AM
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    These guys are missing the point. Landlords go to agents to find the highest calibre of tenants possible. If these people are priced out of the market because of the tenant fees then fantastic perhaps they should be higher.

    There are a pool of properties for people who cannot afford to rent from an agent and that option is available for landlords to approach these services. The world does not owe them a living and neither do agents and landlords.

    • 30 April 2013 10:07 AM
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    'discriminating against people'

    ARLA's own board member been in tribunal for disability discrimination (and lost) so they definitely have a point in his case!

    • 30 April 2013 09:40 AM
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    Sorry Heather, you and your malcontent mates are in competition with about 30 other tenants for every tenancy you chase. Find an agent that charges the fees you are happy to pay and a landlord who wants to charge a rent affordable to your pocket. No-one is forcing you to rent in London.

    You could buy a home in Stoke and have a £30,000 loan to do the place up. Wouldn't that be a decent and secure home or are you after a decent secure home in just the right location at a cost of your choosing? Sorry dear your mother should have slapped your petulant backside and pointed out no-one in the grown up world owes you a single thing.

    • 30 April 2013 09:18 AM
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    I what world does heather kennedy come from? if she really believes that major lenders listen to the us mere mortals and base their lending criteria on what letting agents say then she is more deluded than the story above suggests.

    time to call the men in white coats.

    • 30 April 2013 09:17 AM
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    I am not surprised that tenants are getting annoyed - the pips are squeaking...

    In my area, a two bed flat rents for £1250 per month, a normal mortgage (if you could get 90%) at the moment on that same flat would cost about £600. The service charge, ground rent, etc would take that up to about £750.

    The idea of home ownership is so ingrained into the British psyche that all people can see is their expectations squashed by the greed of others.

    Who to blame?

    Why, it's the agents that people deal with the most so we are in the firing line.

    Rental prices are driven by the market, but because so many estate agents are now lettings agents the fees have dropped (COMPETITION IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD REMEMBER).

    Because fees have dropped, many agents do not have either the time or the inclination to do a "good" job - an adequate one will do. They will also find ways to make those fees up to what they need - charge those tenants.

    So because overall service is poor and some agents charge fees (that they shouldn't?) the actual rises in rental prices are our fault too by association.

    As an example, fees for property management have dropped by about 40% in my area but (allegedly) one agent charges a £600 non refundable admin charge to tenants wanting to take a property - and they are a big corporate - wow!

    • 30 April 2013 09:04 AM
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    If I attend one of these "housing-related events", can I put it down as CPD?

    • 30 April 2013 08:54 AM
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    Pathetic police service. They should have been arrested for harassment and disturbing the peace.

    • 30 April 2013 08:47 AM
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    I was about to go mad after reading this, but saw the comments already made and thought they were much more polite than I would be, whilst getting across the same message, so I'm off for a cup of tea.

    • 30 April 2013 08:45 AM
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    Perhaps if these pond life tried working as hard as they protest they would be able to afford to buy a home and not have to rent - in reality they'd rather spend there weekends protesting whilst the hard grafting agents at Foxtons etc work and pay their taxes so that these lefty low lifes dont have to.

    • 30 April 2013 08:35 AM
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    I don't believe all the blame should be on all letting agents. Granted some do work unethically but most are just running a business within a free market and going with the flow of supply and demand. The blame should be on the previous Labour government for doing little to nothing to boost PRS building within London thus creating a massive lack of supply compared to the huge increase in demand.

    Once building kicks off again, which it should hopefully do with the governments new Build to Rent scheme, rents will go down as supply starts to match the demand.

    • 30 April 2013 08:32 AM
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    Pathetic 'do-gooders' just out to stroke their own ego.

    • 30 April 2013 08:30 AM
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