Two dozen protesters from the London Renters Union (LRU) rallied outside Keatons estate agents in Mile End on Saturday after a group of tenants who complained about unsafe conditions in their rented accomodation were thrown out by the landlord.
The tenants were evicted under Section 21 of the Housing Act which allows private landlords to repossess their properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant.
Protestors blocked the entrance to Keatons and chanted: “Housing is a human right, here to stay, here to fight”.
Alex Wakefield, Tower Hamlets Branch secretary for the London Renters Union (LRU) told ELL: “No one deserves to be evicted from their home for speaking out about basic living conditions and we want to highlight as well the complicity of letting agents in what is a rigged housing system in favour of the wealthy and in favour of people with properties.”
He continued: “People are forced into this cartel of a private renting system where landlords can dictate what they want people to pay for really atrocious conditions and we are going to be outside on the streets with our communities, voting for our renters rights until we see decent housing for all.”
The LRU claimed that Keatons put the flat back on the market at a new rate of £3,200 a month – a £1000 increase since last year – without offering the residents the opportunity to continue their tenancy.
These evictions, known as “Section 21 notices”, mean landlords can order tenants to leave with a minimum of two months warning with no obligation to prove the tenant has done anything wrong.
Data released on Monday revealed that almost 300 London renters are facing “no-fault” evictions every week. Conservatives had pledged to push a new bill to ban the practice – but observers say it’s unlikely to be passed until next year.
Josie Dibnah, one of the former Keatons tenants, told ELL that there were a lot of issues with the flat including infrastructure problems, mould and broken windows.
Dibnah told ELL: “They try to be untraceable, so they will try to arrange phone calls or WhatsApp messages rather than emails to make it basically difficult for their actions to be traced back. We have had responses from Keatons but it has always been in a way that has made us feel very guilty and essentially gaslighting us for raising issues in the flat.”
Dibnah continued, “One of the estate agents here at Keatons told us that we just had to accept that there was mould in the flat, as he said his daughter lives in a privately rented accommodation and she lives in a mouldy room.”
“They are lowering the standard for renters across London and it is not acceptable. They are trying to make us feel like we are alone in this and I think it is very important that tenants and renters can join together and unite in moments like this.”
Kelsey Wood, another former Keatons tenant, said: “The support that we have had from the union has been absolutely incredible, I cannot thank them enough, between using the voice notes we have been sent by Keatons and turning them into music to play and the banners, rallying everyone together.
“I fully appreciate the number of people who turned out and it’s really incredible to shout at Keatons and tell them that we know our rights and that we are here to stay.”
A spokesperson for Keatons told ELL: “Subsequent to the tenants vacating, substantial remedial works were undertaken to the property to resolve as many of the properties shortcomings as possible. Those improvements would not be deemed appropriate to undertake with tenants in situ.
Further to the improvement works being completed at the property, the landlord was provided a revised lettings valuation and the property was listed on the open market. We subsequently found new tenants and they continue to happily reside at this property.
Keatons are acutely aware of the supply and demand issues that the Private Rental Sector faces. However, the fact that the rent had increased since the last tenancy was agreed upon, is neither the fault or responsibility of the Landlord or the agent representing them.
We strictly followed all the correct processes in which to achieve our clients’ clear instructions and would be happy to make all our files and records available to outside scrutiny if required. We have received no official or written complaint from the outgoing tenants, and we have included our complaints procedure for your perusal.”