On Monday night members of Lambeth Renters joined other London Renters groups at an action organised by GMB Young London to demand MPs turn out on Friday to vote for a bill to curb retaliatory evictions.
The bill in question has been tabled by Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather to prevent landlords from evicting tenants where they have complained about serious disrepair and unusually has cross-party support. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere – in order to progress any further, it requires 100 MPs to turn up in parliament on Friday to vote for it. (You can see if your MP is supporting it here and contact them using this tool if not.)
If passed, the bill would provide some welcome additional protection for tenants where there was a serious case of disrepair with their home – something many renters are scared of reporting to their landlord for fear of being branded a ‘problem tenant’ and evicted to be replaced by someone less likely to stand up for their rights.
But as currently drafted, it would still leave renters at risk of eviction for other reasons. The current law means landlords don’t need any reason to evict you, and members of London Renters have been evicted in all kinds of circumstances, including because:
- they tried to get in touch with the landlord’s other tenants with a view to forming a renters group
- they asked the landlord to replace broken furniture (which doesn’t fall within the definition of serious disrepair)
- their landlord had decided to cash in on their buy-to-let investment and wanted to sell their property without the hassle of a sitting tenant.
That doesn’t mean it’s pointless to campaign on this. We took part in Monday’s demonstration because we think could be a first step towards getting the secure tenancies we want and should have, and because coming together around things like this helps build a movement for action to tackle the housing crisis. Whether the bill gets anywhere on Friday or not, there’ll be much more to do, and campaigning together we have a much better chance of winning.
Over the last couple of years, it’s been exciting to link up with more and more groups who are feeling the effects of unregulated landlords and fighting back – and the pressure is definitely building. Earlier this year London Renters held an occupation at the central government housing department, while groups like Tower Hamlets Renters continue to support members who are fighting retaliatory evictions of their own.
Already politicians are feeling the need to be seen to be taking action to address the issues renters face. The current government have gone from point-blank refusing to consider better regulation of renting when they came to power, to supporting the introduction of some measures to regulate letting agents last year, and are now agreeing that there do need to be changes to restrict retaliatory evictions. Labour too have recognised that there’s a problem, committing earlier in the year to introduce longer tenancies if they gain power in May.
So this week’s vote is just one step of the way – and it’s significance is as much as a rallying point for the increasing numbers of people sick of being exploited by landlords as it is for the legislative change it could represent. With more pressure over the next few years, we might stand the chance of much more far-reaching change.