The team of inspectors were clearly visible with hi-vis jackets and clipboards. When asked whether they were from the council, one of the inspectors explained: “We’re a group of local residents and today we’re conducting a Community Housing Inspection. We’re visiting all the lettings agents in central Brixton to ask about the fees they charge, the rents they recommend and how they handle offers from people on housing benefit.”
Letting agents Eden Harper and Haart were prepared to speak to the inspectors, and even talked candidly about their personal views on the need for more regulation in the industry.
But when the team arrived at Foxtons, two bouncers came to the door. They had been hired for the day and instructed to prevent the entry of anyone protesting high rents or dodgy letting agents’ practices. No-one would come out to even speak to them, with the security guards claiming that no one from the lettings team was available. Strange. Even stranger that they still weren’t there when the campaigners returned later in the day.Instead, a crowd of passers-by gathered with the team’s supporters and started to chant “Bring back Speedy Noodle!” in reference to a favourite Brixton eatery which had occupied the space on the high street before Foxtons arrived earlier this year.
The protest ended with an awards ceremony, complete with bubbly, party poppers, a specially-written song, and a certificate presented to Foxtons for being Brixton’s worst letting agency, with “high fees, high rents, cowardly behaviour and services to gentrification”.
A member of the Community Housing Inspection Team summed the event up: “Rising rents are a real problem locally and we want to assess whether letting agents adhere to basic ethical standards. We plan to share the results of our inspection publicly and will use them to keep tabs on Brixton’s worst letting agents.”
You can also read reports of the event by the Brixton Blog and People’s Republic of Southwark. To get involved in housing action in south London, get in touch with HASL (Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth) or Southwark Private Tenants Group.