Estate agents Foxtons hired two security guards on Saturday as protestors in Brixton campaigned outside against high rents.
Private tenants and members of the campaign group ‘Let Down’ undertook a ‘Community Housing Inspection’ in Brixton, visiting Eden Harper, Foxtons and Haart to question their charges and practices as part of a London-wide day of action against high rents and letting agents’ fees.
While staff at Eden Harper were willing to answer the group’s questions, Brixton new-comers Foxtons had hired private security guards to prevent the campaigners entering their office.
When asked whether a member of Foxtons’ staff would come out to speak to the group, the protesters were told that no one from the lettings team was available, despite the group returning later in the afternoon. The protest ended with the protesters staging an ‘awards ceremony’ outside Foxtons, presenting them with a certificate for being ‘Brixton’s worst letting agent’, accused of ‘high fees, high rents, cowardly behaviour, and services to gentrification’, and ‘celebrating’ with party poppers, bubbly and a performance of a specially-written song.
Campaigner Daniel Oldfield said: “Despite the dismal state of our economy and the relentless cuts, rents keep rocketing up and letting agents are making things worse. They often actively advise landlords to put up rents and charge all kinds of fees, most of which have only emerged in the last few years in the so called ‘competitive’ marketplace.
“Short-term tenancies suit them because then people have to keep moving paying fees to renew them. This lack of security especially hurts families because children who move around a lot are more likely to struggle at school. Perhaps worst of all, hardly any privately rented rooms are available to young people on benefits, directly making more people homeless.”
The private tenancy sector has grown in the last few years, as chronic underinvestment in social housing, the poor economic climate and an overcrowded housing market have meant that fewer people are able to access social housing or buy a house, and the number of buy-to-let landlords has soared. In particular, the proportion of families with children renting privately has rapidly increased.
The day of action was part of a London-wide campaign, which demands lower rents, an end to fees for tenants (which are illegal in Scotland), proper regulation of letting agents, no discrimination against people on housing benefit, and longer and more secure tenancies.