UK Tenant Organizing: From illegal evictions to union bootcamps, how Covid-19 could change renting

UK Tenant Organizing: From illegal evictions to union bootcamps, how Covid-19 could change renting

From iNews UK:

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 63 per cent of private renters had no savings and almost half of working renters were just one paycheck away from losing their home. Think of them as the “squeezed middle” Ed Miliband once tried to champion – they were already stretching themselves to cover the most essential cost of all: housing. Now, Shelter estimates that 332,000 private renters who were not in arrears prior to the pandemic are now behind on their rent…

In the meantime, without the protections they need and with local authority enforcement patchy at best, some renters are turning to tenants’ unions for help plugging the gaps where the state is failing. Acorn is a nationwide community union with 5,000 members across the country and branches in 22 cities. A spokesperson told they have helped to resist 20 Section 21 evictions in total and picketed lettings agencies. They also reported a “huge rise in attempted illegal evictions” and requests for help. Acorn has been holding “eviction resistance bootcamps” across the country over the last two months. Participants are taught about renters’ rights in the event that a county court appoints bailiffs to carry out an eviction.

“We have seen a huge increase in our membership over the crisis period,” Acorn’s spokesperson added. Tenants unions see themselves as providing grassroots support where legal aid (which was cut significantly back in 2013) and local councils are falling short. They may become more ubiquitous in months to come but, if they do, it will be a symptom of a housing crisis that predated the pandemic and has been exacerbated by it.


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