By Andrea Gilbert
Wandsworth Housing Action group is a part of the eviction resistance campaign run nationally by Momentum. The aim of the campaign is to resist evictions and target big landlords.
In the London Borough of Wandsworth we did an online search of private rent properties and found we have a dire situation. Estate agents such as OpenRent, which is the largest estate agent in the UK, only make 17% of their properties available to Department for Social Security (DSS)claimants.
DSS discrimination can be incredibly damaging to people’s lives, leaving people trapped in unsuitable accommodation or in some cases homeless. This form of discrimination disproportionately affects disabled people, ethnic minorities and women.
The target we went for in Wandsworth is RS Estate agents who have listed “No DSS or No – – -“ on properties to rent in the borough. Wandsworth Housing Action group demanded that RS Estate agents end listing properties as “No DSS or No – – -“ and called for to end housing discrimination.
On Saturday 27th March the group went to RS Estate agents to hand in its demands to the agents. We put a poster on the window and handed a copy to the available agent who took it and ripped the poster off the window. We then sent a follow-up email to the agents to which we got no response.
So on Saturday 10th April we organized a protest to hand in the demands and to ask for the agency to sign them. The staff were uninterested and one stuck her middle finger up at us and called us useless. Another staff member told us that they’re not the only ones doing this. This shows the agents know what is going on and are not prepared to meet the demands
Wandsworth Housing Action will be going back to the estate agents again in the next few weeks to keep the pressure up. We won’t let this issue go until RS agree to stop housing discrimination in the borough. We will also be supporting the actions of the Wandsworth London Renters Group who are currently campaigning for landlords to be licensed in the borough to put an end to rogue landlords.
Our friends in Tower Hamlets also took part in the day of action. Tower Hamlets Against Evictions are committed to ending Covid evictions and rent debt in the borough and across the UK.
They have asked landlords such as John Christodoulou, the Monaco-based billionaire CEO of Yianis Group, to sign a pledge promising to stop all Covid evictions on his properties and to waive his tenants’ Covid rent debt.
As yet, they have received no response from Yianis group. It is despicable that a company led by a multi-billionaire has chosen to ignore such important concerns at a time when many tenants face unprecedented hardship and housing insecurity.
On Saturday 10th April Tower Hamlets Against Evictions gathered outside Yianis Group’s Canary Wharf headquarters to demand a response. John Christodoulou has form when it comes to exploitation and cruelty.
In Hackney, our neighbouring borough, a Yianis Group-affiliated company attempted ‘revenge evictions’ of tenants in Somerford Grove who requested a pandemic rent reduction. We are asking Christodoulou to end this toxic treatment of renters.
Landlords across the UK have already begun to initiate evictions proceedings as the end to the eviction ban looms on 31st May. A now outdated Guardian article estimates that 70,000 tenants have already left their homes. Over 840,000 renters are now in arrears. We are acting now to try to prevent an unprecedented housing, debt and homelessness crisis that will affect renters for generations to come.
We encourage every renter to join a renters union such as the London Renters Union or Acorn to help resist the actions of these unscrupulous landlords and to fight for a change in the power imbalance between renters and landlords more generally.
Andrea Gilbert is an activist with Wandsworth Housing Action. Twitter: https://twitter.com/WandsHA/status/1380873676426514437
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