A few months ago, Mrs Mike – who is the named tenant of VP Towers – received a communication from our landlord (a housing association).
It was notification that the HA had applied to the Welsh Assembly to set a ‘fair rent’ at about £9 per week more than the then-current level.
Depending on your own circumstances, £9 per week may not seem altogether high but for Mrs Mike, who considers herself to have suffered undue neglect from her landlord (remember the flood last year?), it was the last straw. The notification letter stated that she could appeal against the increase, so she did.
You may be surprised, dear reader, to find that I was reluctant to support her. I feared the possibility of a revenge attack by our landlords, resulting in us ending up on the street.
I was wrong – but the issue took a few months to resolve. At first, the Assembly agreed with the housing association that our rent should be increased and, following representations by Mrs Mike, by more than the HA had originally requested. The landlord promised that it would stick to the original figure but Mrs Mike wasn’t having any of it and took the case to a tribunal, pointing out that our landlord wasn’t comparing our rent with similar houses in the local area (as is necessary) and that calls for repairs were habitually ignored or dismissed by servicers who are based almost 100 miles away.
Now our rent is cheaper – yes, cheaper – than it was before, and it seems our landlord is going to abide by the decision.
But this is a rare case, according to homelessness charity Shelter – and it seems we are safe only because we rent from a social landlord.
Current laws mean it is entirely legal for any private landlord to evict tenants, Shelter says, simply for speaking up about bad conditions going unacknowledged and unrepaired, as Mrs Mike has.
The situation affects no less than nine million UK citizens – and last year, 200,000 of them were thrown out of their homes in what the charity has described as ‘revenge’ evictions.
It seems some landlords don’t like to be embarrassed when their neglect comes out into the public domain.
This means that, according to Shelter, one in 12 private renters have avoided asking for repairs in case they are evicted.
But on November 28 MPs have the chance to end revenge eviction, the charity says.
“They’ll be debating a small change to the law: to stop landlords issuing an eviction notice when the tenant has made a legitimate complaint about conditions.
“For the Bill to pass, enough MPs need to attend the debate and the majority need to vote in favour. You can see more about how the Bill will become law here.
“You can tell your MP to save the date – to attend Parliament on 28 November and vote to end revenge evictions.
“Normally, MPs go back home on a Thursday to do constituency work on a Friday. This time, we need them to stay in Westminster until Friday morning, so they can vote to change the lives of the thousands of renters they represent.”
Shelter has provided a handy system to help you email your MP and ask them to improve the lives of nine million UK citizens. Here it is:
In the run-up to a general election, voters will be watching their MPs very carefully. Do they really represent you? November 28 will be a test of their good intentions. If they don’t stay and vote, you’ll know what to do with them next May. But they need to know what you want them to do.
It’s up to you.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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