Landlords told to reduce rents at Haringey forum picket

May 10, 2012

On Wednesday 9th May, HSG activists were outside the Civic Centre in Wood Green where the Landlords Forum was being held, to put pressure on landlords not to increase their rents above Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels.

Although small in number, we handed out a considerable number of leaflets to people going into the forum and to passers by, explaining why we were there. Despite landlords being well aware of the widespread Housing Benefit cuts in Haringey from January 2012, some have already increased their rents above LHA rates.

With people hard-hit by the vicious austerity measures and feeling the effects of relentless attacks on the welfare system, housing is a salient issue. One woman leaving the Civic Centre told us her daughter was currently being charged over £300 a week for damp and grotty temporary accommodation.

However, the stories we heard from some of the landlords painted quite a different picture. Unashamedly vilifying those on benefits, one landlord called on us to campaign on behalf of the landlords themselves, who were under ‘financial strain’ due to rent owed by their tenants who were ‘irresponsible’ with their benefits and spent their money on ‘other things’. As this sentiment was expressed to us whilst suited landlords (there were more lords than ladies) pulled up in their expensive cars and walked past us into the building, it smacked of a lack of perspective and a lack of social responsibility.

Nevertheless, the reactions we got when speaking to landlords were mixed. While some suspiciously told us ‘they weren’t sure’ if they would increase their rents above LHA rates, others did inform us they had recently lowered their rents to LHA levels: two letting agents from Enfield were proud to say that most of their landlords had agreed to reduce rents, where the difference was only £50. Although such responses seemed to bring more cause for optimism, the bleak reality remains that it is a single individual that decides whether or not a poorer tenant’s right to decent and affordable housing is met, and this is the injustice we need to continue to fight.

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