Our report from our well-attended and inspiring 2019 National AGM.
Living Rent members from across Greater Govan came together this week to discuss what issues local tenants contend with and how they could build power for Govanite tenants to tackle these issues head on.
From shocking rent increases to pigeon invasions, the conversation was far ranging but there was unanimous agreement that by uniting the thousands of tenants all facing the same problems that huge victories can be won for the community.
The group together drafted the following call to action to be broadcast far and wide in doorstep conversations, street stalls, kitchen meetings and public events.
Rent going up year after year?
Feeling isolated under the weight of bills, arrears, a lack of work?
Sick of being ignored anytime you speak up?
Living Rent Govan is the newest branch of an independent tenants union which across Scotland has challenged rent increases, resisted evictions and won millions of pounds in repairs. As local tenants we are uniting to demand better, more affordable housing across Govan, Linthouse, Drumoyne & Ibrox.
Govan’s past tells us when we come together we are strong. Through collective action we will hold every landlord, housing association and local authority to account, and through solidarity, not charity, we will build a better life for everyone.
We are organised, we are determined and have the backing of a national union. But we need to hear from and we need you to get involved. Whether you're renting privately or in social housing, speak to us and join the struggle so that together we can build a group to fight for all of us.
Block by block, street by street!
Over the course of the next few months these Living Rent members will be undertaking a hugely ambitious neighbourhood drive to bring the strength of the union to every street and close in the area. Through doorknocking and outreach the aim is to speak with every one of the thousands who rent their home in the district and in regular meetings the group will strategise exactly how they will win victories over the things that matter most to local people.
Living Rent Govan member Seamus O'Ceallaigh had this to say:
"Our meeting followed several weeks of door knocking and speaking to people about the numerous problems in the area. From the start it was lively and analytical, good ideas were shared and built upon right there and then. This is a promising start to working class organising in Govan, where residents are treated as second-class citizens; forced to live with broken doors, rats and rising rents. It's so encouraging to see a union of tenants being built where it's needed most."
Any Govan, Linthouse, Drumoyne or Ibrox tenant that's struggling with an issue or interested in the progress of Living Rent Govan is encouraged to get in touch with the group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There you can hear about the regular area meetings which will be held every two weeks and are welcoming to anyone wanting to get involved. Food is provided at meetings along with childcare upon request (ideally with a few days notice!)
Mary Barbour and the rent strikers showed the world would could be achieved when the tenants of Govan decide they've had enough. We're a century on but but once again something is stirring on the Clydeside...
Living Rent today publishes a major new report, exposing a loophole unscrupulous landlords are abusing to exploit tenants. You can read the full report here.
We are calling on the Scottish Government to do four things:
1) Limit the length of holiday lets to no more than 31 days
2) Limit how many days of the year a property can be rented out as a Holiday Let
3) Require holiday let landlords to register - just like normal landlords have to
4) Require third-party companies - like Airbnb or Edinburgh Party Lets - to register, just like normal letting agents have to
However, we will not wait for action from the Government. We can also today announce that we are pursuing a number of cases of sham holiday lets in court, and will take direct action against landlords and letting agents operating them.
Over the last decade, the Scottish Government has introduced a number of welcome changes in the Private Rented Sector (PRS); including requiring landlords to register, the introduction of mandatory tenancy deposit protection schemes, better protections from evictions, clarifying the illegality of premium fees, and the introduction of the First-Tier Tribunal to make the process by which tenants can raise disputes more accessible.
While more remains to be done, the PRS is undoubtedly a better place for tenants following these changes. However, a major oversight risks undermining these steps forward: regulations around short-term or holiday lets are subject to far less regulation.
Living Rent has been contacted by increasing numbers of tenants who have signed holiday lets that are nothing of the sort: some lasting for far in excess of 6 months. These holiday let leases afford tenants almost none of the protections tenants would be guaranteed under Short-Assured Tenancies or Scottish Private Residential Tenancies; neither landlords nor agencies operating on their behalf need to register; properties are exempt from HMO licensing; tenants aren’t entitled to third-party protection of their deposits; the properties are not subject to the same standards in terms of fire safety and repairs; and it is significantly easier to evict someone from a holiday let.
There is reason to believe that some landlords are exploiting this lack of regulation in holiday lets to avoid their legal responsibilities as landlords - putting tenants and communities at risk. Our report outlines the situation, and finishes by proposing a way forward.
“The Council? I’m just fed up” he says. “Look…” He points at a gaping black hole in the bathroom ceiling. “I’ve been trying to get that fixed for ages. And that.” His pointing finger moves to indicate a patch of dangerous black mould. “I’ve given up trying to get the Council to do something about it. It’s like banging your head off a wall.”
In June 2016 Azad Adam and his wife, who suffers from breathing difficulties, moved into a third-floor flat in May Court, one of Muirhouse’s six surviving high rises. Collectively known as “The Six Blocks” these comprise two 14-storey tower blocks, Fidra and Birnies Courts, and four “open deck access” rectangular blocks, Oxcars, Inchmickery, Gunnet and May Courts. “It looked good when we moved in,” says Mr Azad (43). “The Council had just redecorated it.” But he soon realised that they had just painted over damp patches and removed black mould with bleach. They soon reappeared. “The bathroom always felt damp, and it got worse and worse. There was water coming through the ceiling.” The ceiling was covered with pine cladding. “I removed the cladding,” he says, “and was horrified by what I found beneath. The ceiling was ‘blown’. It was soaking wet and mouldy.” Since then the dampness has spread to bedrooms and all attempts to get it fixed have fallen on deaf ears.
Alongside climate catastrophe, growing inequality, under-employment, rocketing rents, the effects of social displacement (gentrification) and the wholesale of public services, Universal Credit is the elephant in the room destroying working class neighbourhoods as the negotiations around Brexit drag along, diverting all other political attention.
Wyndford Tenants Union - Nothing is too good for the Wyndford.