The shameful revelations about racial discrimination in the private rented sector highlight the gross imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants. The members of our groups have encountered openly racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes from landlords and agents, not to mention the routine discrimination against benefit claimants who are confronted with ‘No DSS’ signs in the windows of supposedly respectable high street letting agents.
Open and covert discrimination is one reason London Renters embarked on the Let Down campaign and continue to call on the government to do more to protect private renters. The housing market is so heavily weighted in favour of landlords. One consequence of this is letting agents are falling over themselves to attract new landlords and happily pandering to prejudices, safe in the knowledge that in this largely unregulated market the few laws that do exist to protect tenants are unlikely to be enforced.
As the Inside Out programme into letting agents makes painfully clear, the scant legislation currently regulating letting agents isn’t working. We need urgent action to stamp out unacceptable discrimination. London Renters call on the government to introduce long overdue licensing of letting agents and landlords so prejudices can be properly exposed and eradicated. We need a national register of landlords so those found illegally discriminating against people can be struck off.
And councils must be properly resourced so they can enforce the law against the shady and discriminatory practices which are a daily reality for people forced to rent in London. As the capital’s private rented sector continues to grow and council budgets are slashed, local authorities find themselves wholly unprepared to deal with the landlords and agents operating outside the law. Central government need to address this issue as a priority.
Brent Housing Action group will be picketing the National Estate Agents at 75 Willesden High Road, Brent at 12.30pm on Tuesday 15 October and marching to A-Z Property Services to publicly condemn letting agent discrimination and call for regulation of letting agents. Please spread the word and join them if you can!