housing

Victorstone pay up after scores call to complain

Ruth, Jess and Charlotte recently took up a rented property in Bethnal Green through the Shoreditch branch of Victorstone Property Consultants, paying £3,451 as rent and deposit. After they had only just moved into the house, Victorstone fell out with the landlords over the fees they would take, the landlords decided they wanted to get out of the letting, and changed the locks.

Ruth, Jess and Charlotte managed to get some money back from the landlady, but the landlady had never been transferred the full amount, because Victorstone had subtracted their fee. Victorstone initially tried to mislead Ruth, Jess and Charlotte, implying that all the money had been transferred to the landlady. In fact they intended to keep c.£1200 of their money for a completely failed deal.

Denied deposits? Refused repairs? Harassed by your landlord?

South London Solfed can help you fight back against the exploitative practices of landlords and estate agencies.

Our new "Stuff Your Landlord" leaflet lists some basic legal rights.

It can be useful to know the law because many landlords don’t follow basic legal requirements. But we also need to remember that the law is not going to be on our side most of the time. We shouldn’t rely on a court system designed to benefit the rich and powerful to make sure we’re treated fairly.

Rogue letting agents back down

Three tenants discovered that it is illegal in Scotland for letting agents to charge tenants fees apart from rent and deposits. Their letting agent, Martin & Co, had charged the three of them them a substantial £250 ‘check-in’ fee before they had even paid their deposit.

They first submitted an official complaint but received only the receipt listing the fees they had paid as a reply. The charity Shelter advised them that they could go to the small claims court, but the court fee would have been £65 with no guarantee of a win.

So instead, on 3rd February, they and 15 friends from the Glasgow Solidarity Network delivered a letter in person to the head of the Martin & Co West End office (to the amusement of other staff) giving the company two weeks to return the money.

Direct action gets the goods! Victory in less than a week for newly reformed Glasgow Solidarity Network

Glasgow Solidarity Network has demonstrated how direct action gets the goods with a successful conclusion to its first fight.  Two members of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation and their flatmate discovered that it is illegal in Scotland for letting agents to charge tenants fees apart from rent and deposits.  Their letting agent, Martin & Co, had charged the three of them them a substantial £250 “check-in” fee before they had even paid their deposit.  They first submitted an official complaint but received only the receipt listing the fees they had paid as a reply.

The Cairns Street blockade

Residents of Cairns Street, in Toxteth, yesterday defied private contractors coming to demolish houses as part of a "regeneration" scheme by blockading the street. The demolishers Lovell and the police were both foiled by the peaceful action, which will be continuing every morning from 8am whilst the threat of demolition remains.

The demolition of the houses first came on the cards in June, when Lovell won planning permission to knock down six houses in order to build three. Residents objected from the point of the initial bid, but their protests have been studiously ignored by the Labour council. A site visit won no concessions, and when a planning meeting was split over the issue councillor John Macintosh used his casting vote to take the side of the developers.

As one local resident told Liverpool Confidential;

Brighton homeless housing farce

The number of homes standing empty in Brighton and Hove outnumber the number of homeless families ten to one - but a Tory MP is leading calls to criminalise squatting. Brighton and Hove Council accepts responsibility for housing 368 homeless households, while 3,655 homes sit empty. Despite this, Tory MP Mike Weatherly wants to criminalise squatting, putting the interests of landlords and property speculators before those of the homeless. Home repossessions peaked last year following an increase in defaults on mortgages and rent during the recession.

Gentrification, class and social policy: A Housing Timebomb?

With even the professional classes struggling to get onto the property ladder these days, future generations may never be able to afford to leave the family home at all. But rising house prices are no joke, with a record 45,000 repossessions predicted this year. Many more of us are now being priced out of the ‘desirable’ locations where we grew up by the second-home market, or finding our areas gentrified by a plague of parasitic property developers. The unfolding housing situation is a further indication of our polarised nation, with a complete dearth of affordable housing now becoming the norm.

Toxteth's Welsh Streets should be saved, but not because of Ringo…

A campaign to save Toxteth’s historic Welsh Streets from demolition has been dealt a blow after English Heritage refused to put a preservation order on 9 Madryn Street, the house where Ringo Starr was born.

The 11 streets of Victorian terraced houses were built by Welsh workers to house local dockers and their families. The area was also infamous for its radical political tradition.

Lack of central heating and persistent rising damp has driven the most recent residents out, but preservationists argue that modern restoration methods can make the homes habitable again. This is obviously an idea that the property developers don’t want to see gain traction, as simply restoring the houses would not justify massive asking prices.

International news in brief

India: boss shoots at striking workers
A ‘manager’ at the Combo Allied Nippon Company in Sahibabad, India, shot at striking workers before they overpowered him. Nine workers have now been arrested for his murder.

Around 400 workers had been striking over the issues of contracts, bonuses and a pay rise. Company officials went to confront strikers and opened fire with 4-5 shots, wounding a worker. Workers then fought with officials leaving several injured on both sides and the shooter dead.

Sources close to the workers claim that many of the so-called ‘management’ are in fact company goons hired to break the union, and that beatings of workers have become commonplace. Reportedly it was also “quite common for them to roam inside the factory openly carrying the guns in order to terrorise the workers.”

Housing benefits cuts spark poverty fears

The media keep running stories about benefit fraudsters living it up, paving the way for drastic changes to the benefits system. Catalyst spoke to one of the supposed benefit scroungers to find out what it’s really like to live on benefits.

Since finishing a postgraduate course, Teresa has been looking for a job in Brighton. “I have been applying for at least 4 to 5 jobs a week for the past 4 months but did not get any job. Often I have been told I am overqualified for the positions and even though I tried to impress on them that I would like to work – I was told that they can get someone less qualified to do the work on minimum wages.”