We are so used to landlords - and the power they have - that they can seem unchallengeable. They make profit from our need for a home, and using the courts and the police, can make us homeless.
While the situation for tenants in the UK is dire - and looks to get worse under COVID-19 - we still have rights under the law and community power to protect us.
This guide is brief primer on what we do and how we win.
For more in-depth guides on different aspects of housing law, click the links below.
Who does this guide apply to?
Private Renters: Y
Social Housing Renters: Y
Direct action and mutual aid
Knowing the law is useful, because when landlords don’t follow it you can use it against them. But most of the time the law isn’t on our side, and we can’t rely on it to make sure we’re treated fairly. While it should be seen as the floor for basic human decency, it’s usually a ceiling.
If you’ve rented, you’ve probably talked with other tenants about how to deal with a dodgy landlord and survive a market stacked in their favour. Maybe you’ve even gone with a fellow tenant to speak to your landlord about a problem. These conversations and actions are the basis of solidarity.
Lockdown and social distancing might have changed the way we perform direct action, but we can still support each other. As we move away from meeting in physical space to keep people safe, our tactics need to do the same. Fortunately, we’ve seen evidence that distanced tactics - online, phone, printed materials - are having an increased effect as people spend more time online during the pandemic.
Courtroom disputes can be expensive, long, stressful and often need specialised skills. Direct action doesn’t. Anyone can do it and win. Rather than relying on judges and lawyers, direct action is based on us organising ourselves and confronting landlords collectively. It could be something straightforward, like lots of us going down as a group to demand our landlord finish repair jobs.
It could mean setting up a tenants’ union — and even all deciding to withhold rent until demands are met (a ‘rent strike’). Defending our rights is just the beginning — when we’re strong we can take the initiative. Examples of direct action include:
- Taking a demand letter to a landlord’s home or work.
- Publicly “outing” their bad behaviour to neighbours and the community.
- Bombarding their telephone or email inbox.
- Occupying your local housing office.
- ...and other creative ways of causing economic disruption to people tht profit off your need for a home!
These are just examples. Anything that gives you leverage over your landlord works, particularly by challenging their reputation or hitting them in the pocket. Friends, family and other tenants can give us the support we need to change things.
Contact your nearest SolFed local if you need support in fighting your landlord.