As part of the day of action, renters from Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets gathered outside high street letting agents on Upper Street near Angel to demand an end to rip off fees, spiraling rents and exploitation of private tenants.
The local campaign groups staged a series of fun, theatrical actions outside letting agents Foxtons, Savills and Faron Sutaria. They invited members of the public to play a game of ‘Housing Crisis Monopoly’ to highlight the negative impact of letting agents in the current housing crisis and the vulnerable position of tenants.
Londoners dressed as letting agents and Monopoly characters invited the public to play ‘Housing Crisis Chance’ and compete for a London flat. The action was led by London Renters’ own dastardly letting agent, played expertly by Danny Coakley, a member of Tower Hamlets Renters, who also features in this video.
The public gathered on the streets to watch the actions and shared their own bad experiences with letting agents. Raj Singh, a private tenant who came along to the event, said: “When I arrived at today’s action I realised just how wide the problem of letting agents in London is. A few days ago I’d have assumed that a private tenant who gets evicted has done something wrong but speaking to people today I realise people get evicted all the time for no reason.”
Most high street letting agents will charge new tenants fees of between £100 and £500 for services such as reference checks, conducting an inventory or general ‘admin’ fees. It is thought the actual cost of a tenant reference check is between £5-£20. After moving in, many private tenants will also find themselves hit with fees of around £100-£300 to renew their tenancy agreement or check out of their property.
Campaigners are also calling for an end to discrimination against people on housing benefit. In 2012, researchers in Hackney found that less than 1% of private rented properties were available to people on housing benefit – either because they were unaffordable or because letting agents and landlords refused to let to housing benefit tenants.
Letting agents also have a significant role to play in the steep escalation of private rents. Shelter found that a fifth of landlords had increased their rents because letting agents had encouraged them to.
Meanwhile the opulence of high street letting agents such as Foxtons knows no bounds. Their fleets of branded minis and glimmering shop fronts with designer interiors leaves us more than slightly suspicious about what these “admin fees” are really being spent on. In Brixton and Islington on Saturday, branches of Foxtons thought nothing of splashing out on private security guards to man the doors in anticipation of our peaceful protests.