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Housing :: Tenants
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You know that things have got bad for private renters when even the Tories realise they need to look like they're doing something to stop the chronic exploitation of tenants.
Housing minister James Brokenshire announced that the government would be changing the law to stop no-fault evictions - where landlords can evict tenants without good reasons at eight-weeks' notice.
A few years ago, I was evicted from the room I was renting. The landlord decided to spruce up the ex-council house, told me the builders were arriving in four weeks and I'd have to be gone by then!
When I returned a while after to pick up some post, fancy flooring and furnishings had been installed, an extension added, and the rent nearly doubled for the new tenants!
Even if this sort of behaviour is made illegal and tenants automatically have a right to challenge evictions in court, what use is that when councils continue to cut funding for Citizens Advice Bureaux and other places where people can access housing advice?
It was recently revealed that in the last year only three entries have been made into the government's national database of rogue landlords, only 11% of councils in England have fined rogue landlords and just 33% have carried out prosecutions of landlords caught breaking the law.
It's hard to believe that other areas are completely free of landlords exploiting people's need to find somewhere to live by renting out badly maintained properties. Much more likely, this is evidence of local authority housing departments being cut to the bone.
A first step for Labour councils - to stand up for the working class in deeds and not just words - would be to properly fund housing advice and inspection for private tenants.
But they should also go further. They should follow the example of Liverpool City Council - led by the Socialist Party's forerunner Militant - in the 1980s.
They should launch a struggle to win back the funding cut by central government over the last nine years. And fight for the necessary funds to begin building quality public housing on the scale needed to house the roughly one million people currently stuck on council house waiting lists.
We need rent control too. Labour councils could use their licensing powers to begin to implement this now.
One property developer, Persimmon, made £1 billion in profit in 2018. The wealth exists to provide everyone with a decent home to live in.
More and more, capitalism shows itself incapable of providing this basic requirement for life - time to step up the fight for liveable housing and a socialist society based on human need, not private greed.
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Article dated 17 April 2019
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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