UPDATE: since the publication of this article on the afternoon of Monday 10th July 2017, Larissa Reed, Executive Director for Neighbourhoods, Communities & Housing at Brighton council has been in touch to arrange a meeting with Brighton SolFed and the Bobby Carver campaign within the next two weeks. We look forward to hearing how the issues raised below are going to be addressed, and about the changes the council is going to put in place to ensure 'the safest homes possible' for everyone...
A prospective tenant contacted Brighton SolFed after she was poorly treated by an agency. The list of grievances will be sadly familiar to anyone who has or does rent in Brighton. For example, after the agency had received the £840 fee for the four tenants moving into the house, they: changed the length of the agreement from twelve to eleven months; gave the tenants misleading information about insurance and tried to pressure them into more expensive agreements; made absurd requests for the paperwork required by their guarantor; added additional fees for this paperwork; forced expensive insurance schemes on international tenants; went back on a promise to fix up the bathroom; were generally unresponsive and misleading when they could be contacted, and moved the moving in date back whilst still expecting the tenants to pay rent from the first date.
For the past three months, Brighton Solidarity Federation has been organising with a tenant whose flat is in a serious state of disrepair, in order to try and get these repair works done. What follows is an account of the council's systematic failure to fulfil their duties toward this tenant.
A lot of housing in the private rented sector is in an appalling state, and it's pretty hard for isolated tenants to get their landlord to make improvements. Here we publish the story of a tenant from a nearby town who contacted us during one of our Brighton housing disputes. It's a horror story in which the lettings agency forces the tenants to pay 6 months rent upfront, dismissing their complaints about unsafe living conditions with mental health slurs before dragging them to court for eviction. The account was written in the hope that it will encourage more tenants to come together to support one another, so we will no longer be isolated in the face of landlords who usually can count to have lettings agencies, lawyers, courts and often even councils on their side.
On 23rd November 2016, the Treasury announced in the Autumn Statement that they “will ban fees to tenants as soon as possible”. So, right now fees are still legal in England & Wales, and it is not very clear when they will be outlawed.
The Stuff your Landlord doesn't want you to know
There are different types of renting and the most common, assured tenancies, often have rights written in the contract. Some rights always apply as long as you can prove you’ve paid the landlord* — no matter what the landlord or contract says.
Brighton SolFed has started a dispute against the Western road branch of the letting agency Leaders. The agency facilitated an eviction attempt against a tenant that failed after a court hearing. SolFed has been trying to find a settlement for the dispute the last couple of weeks. Along with SolFed, the tenant is fighting for compensation for loss of earnings and damage to her health.
Earlier this month, we helped an international student get back her holding deposit from a lettings agency. Here is the tenant's story.
The agency were nice in the beginning, like every other agency. However they kept asking if I still wanted the flat. It made me feel quite pressured, so I paid the holding deposit of £650. I thought this was excessive, but the agency assured me that I would not lose the money as long as I proceeded with the tenancy application. Despite the deposit, the agency could still change whatever they wanted . They tried to postpone the advertised moving in date without my agreement, and referred to it being “subject to contract”. So if I said no, I would lose the deposit. How is it fair that they could hold my money against me and change the terms of tenancy in their favour!
Brighton SolFed has started a dispute against the Hove branch of the letting agency King & Chasemore The agency has stolen the holding deposit of a tenant. SolFed has been trying to find a settlement of the dispute the last coupld of weeks. The amount demanded from the agency is £425.