A new home for Arthur – victory in east London!
“Arthur” first heard about London Renters Union when he got a knock at his door in January.
By that point, his housing situation had been desperate for years. He had been renting from private landlords for over two decades. Despite letters from the local MP and from his daughter’s school, he had been bidding for social housing from the council for 11 years with nothing offered.
The one bedroom private rented flat he lived in with his daughter was infested with rats, mice and cockroaches, and although he’d raised concerns with his letting agent, little had been done. Living in these conditions was stressful for his daughter, who was scared of the mice and rats. There was mould and damp in several rooms, and the ceiling in one room was threatening to collapse as water from the floor above leaked through.
Working shifts on a zero hours contract through a subcontractor as a security guard with health conditions preventing him from working more, he figured he was stuck with the intolerable conditions of the private rented sector for life.
When a door knocker for LRU showed up at his door, Arthur was interested to know more. “They said, if I have a problem come to a meeting,” he says. “That’s when I came to the union. I went to the meeting and told my story, and that’s when everything changed.”
At the next branch meeting in east London, Arthur was introduced to other members who shared their stories: and he was encouraged to do the same. He was paired up with other union members and they talked through exactly what was happening with his housing situation. Sharing his problems and realising others had similar struggles was a big support – but it also led to action. Union members supported Arthur to draft a letter to the letting agents, and come up with a plan.
The decision to take action was taken collectively by the rest of the branch. Arthur and fellow union members delivered a letter and discussed the problems he had experienced with the agent. The turnaround in Arthur’s situation was almost immediate.
The next day the agents arranged for someone to come to the flat to inspect the damage and infestation. Within three days, it was fixed.
“I’d been through hell. I tried to get help from my doctors, councillor and MP – they couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have money for a solicitor,” Arthur says. “You need a union to be successful – they’ll fight for you.”
He and his daughter have since been placed in social housing near to his daughter’s school, and close to where the previous flat was located. It’s a huge relief to have a place that is free from damp and infestation and with space enough for his family. At the next branch meeting, members celebrated this huge change for Arthur’s family!
But this is not the end of his involvement in the union. Arthur hopes to continue being an active part of London Renters Union, going to branch meetings, taking part in campaigns to change the housing system, and building power in his branch to help others with their housing struggles.
“When you’re a part of a union you’re a member of a society – you have to participate,” he said. “I needed something like a union and it arrived. That’s how God works. I have to join them with their great help now – I can speak to myself and say, I’m good, I can sleep peacefully at night.”
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