Member Solidarity - What We Can and Can't DoThe types of issues we can and can't take action on to support one another's housing struggles.
The issues facing private renters in London are many and they are complex; from dodgy agent fees to illegal evictions; chronic disrepair to verbal and physical harassment, tenants are forced to endure horrific conditions and often feel helpless.
As a union, we use collective organising to win rights for tenants and to help change the housing system. Since we launched in 2018, we have begun to learn where and how we can be most effective. We have also learnt what issues other groups and organisations are better placed to address, and have built up knowledge on housing issues we want to campaign together around in order to bring about wider change. We are still learning, but below is an attempt to summarise the ways we can support one another and the (current) limits of doing so.
What we CAN support members with
We can mobilise people across London to come and non-violently stand in the way of county court bailiff evictions. Doing so is often the difference between someone being homeless or having a roof over their heads.
Knowledge of housing rights and the law
We run trainings to share the knowledge of what rights we have under the law, so we can all be better equipped to stand up to the landlords and agents that might try to take them away from us.
Harassment and intimidation
You have the right to live in your home in dignity and if your landlord or their agents are violating that right, we can organise against them using collective pressure, legal channels and direct action.
Disrepair and neglect
Landlords need to keep your place in livable shape. We believe it is up to us to stand up together to ensure decent living spaces, whether the law is on our side or not, and can organise to put pressure on landlords and estate agents together.
You are not alone. We are here for each other. Through our branch meetings we make spaces for people to feel supported and empowered to take action on their housing issues and to meet others in similar positions.
Withheld deposits and unfair agent fees
There are strong laws around deposits and fees. If they are not respected, we can either take action together as a union to ensure they are and can work with you, alongside legal partners in some situations, to get money repaid.
What we CAN’T support members with
Finding new accommodation
We know there is a shortage of decent accommodation in London. However, people moving doesn’t address wider issues and often leads to their previous homes remaining in disrepair for a next tenant, possibly at higher rent. We work to help members in their battle to improve the conditions they are living in, wherever possible.
Improving council housing priority
Council housing waiting lists are complex and not areas we have specialist knowledge of. While we appreciate why many people need higher prioritisation, we do not want to push one person up the list to the detriment of another.
This is another issue where we sadly have no immediate solution. In the current housing crisis, if we try to get a council to crack down on overcrowding, a common result is that someone loses their home. Our power comes from our ability to stay where we are and fight to make it better, and this is not always sensible in an overcrowding scenario.
There are charities that can provide this kind of advice. Unfortunately we are not experts in the benefit system. We are currently developing a list of places which can offer advice and support.
If we have joined forces with a member to resist eviction, we can of course continue to provide solidarity and friendly support to that person – but we cannot spend time helping find a new place.
People who cannot attend branch meetings
While we are aiming to build branches all across London, we are not there yet. As our approach is based on collective organising, we can’t offer 1-to-1 advice over the phone or via email to those who aren’t able to attend local branch meetings. We have branches in Newham, Hackney and Lewisham, currently. You don’t have to live in the branch area to attend, but you do need to be able to get involved with the collective process via branch meetings.
Disputes between neighbours
We are happy to take on any landlord but we are not able to support you in a dispute with another tenant or neighbour. If landlords actively back one tenant over another, we can address it as an issue with the landlord.
JOIN THE LONDON RENTERS UNION
We’re a members-led, campaigning union and we’re taking action to make sure all Londoners have a decent, affordable and secure home. Join our community today and become part of the movement to transform the housing system.
Help shape our plans for 2022. Hear from LRU members and branches about our WINS over the past year. Get more involved in the London Renters Union community.
A London Renters Union ‘Learning for power’ session examining the history of community organising
Our Member Solidarity training is for all members who want to support other renters with their housing issues, and stand up to landlords and estate agents. You will learn about how we organise member solidarity in the union, our principles and process, and how we...