Union: We want justice for renters

Group calls on Town Hall to sign housing justice charter

Friday, 5th August — By Anna Lamche

London Renter's Union with Green Party at TH

The Green Party’s Caroline Russell joined members of the London Renter’s Union on the steps of the Town Hall

A GROUP championing renters’ rights has called for the Town Hall to sign a housing justice charter amid warnings that Islington’s private rental sector is broken.

The London Renter’s Union (LRU) is a member-led organisation campaigning for renters’ rights across the capital.

While Islington does not yet have its own branch, roughly 250 people from the borough belong to the group. Finsbury Park resident Tom Jack is one member hoping to soon see a branch set up in the area.

“We’re relatively new, we only started organising in the borough over the past three or four months. We’re hoping to get like-minded people together,” he said.

The LRU carries out “actions” which hold landlords to account and protest against illegal evictions while advising local authorities on measures to curb injustices in the private rental sector.

“I’d like to stay in Islington but as a renter, it’s hard to truly feel at home anywhere,” Mr Jack said. “I think Islington is a great place to live but I want it to be even better.”

Against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, London renters have seen record rises on their already-inflated rental payments, with the latest figures from Rightmove showing London rents have jumped by around 14 per cent in the last year.

Islington in particular is one of the areas seeing the fastest rises, In this context Islington members recently published a charter with a set of “locally-specific demands” for the borough.

The charter calls for the council to hold landlords to account “on issues such as disrepair and illegal eviction”, demanding the Town Hall takes a zero-tolerance enforcement policy against “landlords making a profit from breaking the law,” where fines and inspections are used to “shape landlord behaviour”.

The Union would like to see more enforcement officers hired to drive up housing standards within the private rental sector.

Housing associations should be also held to account when they fail to carry out repairs, the LRU said. It would also like to see the council begin to collect and publish data about rent levels.

Last week, Islington Greens announced their support for the charter, as the LRU urged Islington Labour to follow suit.

According to the LRU, rental payments should never take up more than 30 per cent of a person’s income. “That is actually very high compared to other cities like Berlin,” Mr Jack said.

Research by Trust for London last year found a worker on an average London wage would have to spend over half of their income to afford a one-bedroom house or flat in Islington’s private market.

Mr Jack said the LRU is in it for the long haul.

“The housing crisis is ingrained and systemic – solutions to systemic problems aren’t immediate,” he said. “We’re trying to build consensus: without campaigns like this nothing will change,” Mr Jack said.

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “The rising rent levels in Islington are extremely concerning and we back the Mayor of London’s call to freeze them.

“Handling thousands of complaints over recent years, carrying out property inspections and handing fines to bad landlords when necessary, Islington Council is proud to stand on the side of private renters.

“Having met with representatives from the London Renters Union recently, we feel that our goals are aligned and that many of our housing policies are already focused on those aims.

“We look forward to working with them to support renters across the borough and have urged them to bring to our attention cases where people are being forced to accept poor quality or unsafe living conditions.”

Related Articles