The demonstration earlier today (Photo: London Renters Union)
From London Renters Union (Brent)
Wednesday 7 June: Brent renters from the LRU today launched the #NotAnotherWinter campaign calling on the council to tackle the epidemic of unsafe housing across the borough. The campaign began with a protest outside Sathy Property Services NW10 4SY, responsible for letting out housing in a state of serious disrepair to two LRU members. The union is calling on Brent council to invest in housing safety and to take proactive enforcement action against dangerous landlords so that no one faces another winter of damp and mould.
Brent council estimates that around 10,000 privately rented homes in the borough present a serious health hazard. While properties remain in poor conditions, this hasn’t stopped landlords raising rents. Although Brent has the second highest level of poverty of any London borough, median monthly rents are now up to £1400, 57% of incomes. Last year, Brent had the highest rate of eviction of any local authority in England and Wales.
Brent Council has a responsibility to identify and deal with dangerous housing. But current plans for a selective landlord licensing scheme do not go far enough in tackling the scale of the problem, only addressing a small proportion of the estimated 10,000 hazards.
Damp and mould is a national issue of public health. Citizens Advice reports that 2.7 million households face damp, mould, or excessively cold homes. The NHS spends an estimated £1.4 bn per year treating patients with housing-related health conditions.
LRU members are calling on Brent council to invest in housing safety by expanding its enforcement team, inspecting more properties, and by fining landlords who profit from unsafe accommodation more swiftly and more often. Members are inviting local residents to sign a petition in support of the campaign. Earlier this year, the Hackney branch of the LRU won a similar £400,000 investment in housing safety.
Farhiya, LRU Member, says:
I'm paying £1900 a month for a two-bedroom flat but my house has had leaks, damp and mould for two years now. It's so bad that it's giving my children asthma. We've had to go to the doctors many times. But when I spoke to the landlord, he just ignored us. I just want my children to feel safe in their home. It shouldn't be this difficult to get our repairs done.
Aminah*, LRU Member, says:
The damp and mould in my flat is so bad that I've developed asthma and serious lung problems. I've also tripped over in the bathroom because the floor gets completely covered with water from the leaks. Even my carer does not want to come round to the flat anymore because the damp and the leaks are so dangerous. I've complained to the agency so many times but they just refuse to deal with the problems. When the council came round to look at the problems, all I was told was to wipe off the mould.
Jacob Wills, Organiser at London Renters Union, says:
Nobody should have to pay for a home that makes them sick. But thousands of people across Brent live in housing that presents a serious risk to their health. In the wake of the death of Awaab Ishak, it’s clear that the consequences of unsafe housing can be deadly. As long as councils fail to take swift and robust enforcement action, it will be more profitable for landlords to let out dangerous accommodation than to properly maintain their properties. The council urgently needs a credible plan to deal with the 10,000 unsafe homes across Brent. We are calling on the council to invest in housing safety and agree to a concrete timeline to ensure no one faces another winter of damp and mould.