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Protesters storm council meeting in protest against landlords

Protesters made up of a coalition of tenants’ groups held a demonstration at City Hall in London as councillors met to discuss the private rented sector.

Activists from Digs, Brent Private Tenants Rights Group, Haringey Housing Action Group and Housing for the 99% succeeded in bringing the meeting to a standstill.

They were protesting against high rents, alleged bad treatment by landlords, and letting agents’ fees. The protesters called on London councillors to follow Scotland’s example in making letting agent fees to tenants illegal.

They also protested against retaliatory evictions, which they said were when landlords evicted tenants who had stood up for their rights.

Waving banners and singing housing-themed carols, they protested over what they called the imbalance of rights of landlords over private tenants, extortionate rents and insecure, poor-quality private rented housing.

They also gave out leaflets and shouted out their demands as London Assembly members arrived for the meeting.

Inside the meeting, activists presented their demands for rent controls, longer and more secure tenancies and an end to letting agents’ fees.

On the Digs website, it says: “There were gasps from GLA members as Lewisham Tenants’ Relations Officer Ben Reeve Lewis described letting agents and landlords violently threatening and physically abusing their tenants, something he comes across on a regular basis.

“Speakers were asked whether complaints from private tenants were increasing, to which the answer was a resounding ‘yes’. But some speakers urged GLA members to recognise that the majority of tenants, particularly vulnerable ones, will never complain, no matter how bad their housing situation.

“Shockingly, David Lawrenson from consultancy firm Letting Focus revealed that not only are some mortgage lenders restricting the length of tenancies landlords can offer, they are also stopping landlords from letting to people in receipt of benefits. The fact that some of these mortgage lenders were state-owned banks made the revelation all the more shocking.”

Lawrenson and Heather Kennedy, of Digs, both called for a rent control model that works successfully in Germany, where a three to five-year tenancy is offered and the rent rises are no higher than inflation.

Earlier this week, London Mayor Boris Johnson launched proposals for a voluntary London Rental Standard. But the protesters said it does not go far enough.

Christine Haigh, from Housing for the 99%, said: “We’re being ripped off with poor-quality, insecure housing, and urgently need action to raise standards and control rents.”

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