Easton tenants and residents packed the main room at Easton Community Centre last night, providing emotional testimony about housing problems, venting frustrations over the state of private rental housing, and pushing local letting agents to help.
Two local letting agents (Peter Stephenson from Piper Property and Gareth Hunt and Boris Drappier from Besley Hill) also came along, listened and spoke frankly - and fair play to them. Eight other local letting agents - including Morgan & Son, House & Co, Moorfields and Liv ‘n’ Let – were also invited, but refused to send representatives, effectively refusing to listen to their customers and community.
The public meeting was part of ACORN's campaign calling on letting agents to drop their rip-off tenancy fees and help give the millions of renting families more security.
At times the meeting got understandably emotional and heated. One private tenant told the room that “renters feel like second class citizens”. Another said “Our little family was evicted from a mouldy house with a 7 month baby so the landlord could rent the rooms out separately” while still another told us “Our letting agent seems to have sold our tenancy to another agency... when we went to visit it turned out to be a pizza place!”
A housing professional told us that “tenancy fees and lack of security are the major problems getting social housing tenants into the private rental sector … letting agents are a barrier”. Another professional working to prevent homelessness said “we can’t keep up with the work … the majority of homeless are families. If they had more security this wouldn’t be happening”. He got the meetings full sympathy when he made it clear he hadnt intended to speak - but yet another hard day meant he just had to.
Peter Stephenson from Piper Property said his business does not charge tenancy fees and that “we view the fees imposed by letting agents on tenants as extortionate and ridiculous”. He added that “I would love to see us move toward the European model and give tenants more security … we need national regulation”.
Easton local Gareth Hunt from the Besley Hill franchise said that more regulation is necessary and that “estate agents and letting agents should need to be qualified professionals”. He committed to providing a response from Besley Hill on tenancy fees next week.
In just 4 weeks our petition has gathered more than 1000 signatures – representing nearly a quarter of Easton - calling on letting agents to drop their rip-off tenancy fees and help give tenants more security. Massive thanks to all of you who have signed and shared it, it's added massive weight to the campaign (it's still live, so please sign here if you havent yet)
The campaign has also gained political support from Councillor Afzal Shah, Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy and Labour parliamentary candidate for Bristol West Thangam Debonnaire who has told BBC Radio “one of ten (letting agents) aren’t charging fees and they make a business that’s viable … it is a rip off”. Let's be clear though, politicians need an organised, powerful people to hold them to account - especially up against organised, powerful corporate interests - and that is what ACORN is all about.
At the end the meeting called a protest rally against the letting agents who didn’t attend on Saturday 26th July. We also agreed to link up with other private renter’s campaigns around the country and continue discussions with Besley Hill and Piper Property. ACORN leaders will be meeting up soon to continue running this campaign and planning actions - if you want to join in, please contact us here.
Big thanks to those who came along and spoke bravely and passionately, those who joined ACORN to help us build people power and to Gareth and Boris from Besley Hill and Peter from Piper Property for listening and engaging. The campaign continues...