Two tenants who were amongst a group of activists in a battle with their landlord have written in a left-wing journal how they won thousands in compensation.
Griff Ferris - who works in investigations and campaigns on legal issues - and musician Raff Poole write in the latest edition of Tribune that they were amongst tenants sharing a five-bedroom, one-bathroom flat in London.
They admit it was “cheap, and it was spacious with high ceilings” but claim it was also in poor condition. They write: “There were holes in the walls, damp (both new and old), leaks, and rotted window frames. Chunks sometimes fell from the ceilings. There were also dangerous plugs and sockets which sparked and caught fire, electrical appliances and wiring from the last century, and a hazardous network of extension cables plugged into extension cables in all the rooms.”
Because the landlord allegedly failed to remedy the problems (“we begged him to repeatedly”) the tenants checked his bona fides and found that he had no HMO licence, nor the appropriate paperwork showing checks on health and safety issues.
“That was the point at which we stopped paying rent. We had had enough of the multiple, serious safety issues. When we found out it was almost certain our landlord was unlicensed as well, we didn’t want to continue filling up his bank account and we suspected he wouldn’t be in a position to challenge us” the pair write.
The activists - who admit they worked with campaign organisations including the London Renters Union and a group called Flat Justice - prepared a Rent Repayment Order application.
However, rather than submit it the tenants used it to negotiate out of court with the landlord.
The pair write in Tribune: “So we wrote to our landlord, setting out all the issues with the house, our evidence, and his refusal to address any of them. We said this justified compensation. We reminded him that an RRO can reward tenants up to twelve months’ rent, and also reminded him of the huge potential fines (£30,000 and more) for not having done the correct safety checks. After our letter, he met with us. He was clearly nervous.”
They say their negotiating position was made stronger by knowing that the landlord wanted them to leave but “we let him know that we would not leave of our own accord unless we were duly compensated.”
In the end they received five months rent as a settlement and as a result they agreed to leave by a specified date.
“So that’s how we did it. In a difficult time for renters and tenants, this hopefully stands as a motivating story of tenant power over landlords” the pair write, concluding: “Above all, join a tenants’ union, if you’re not already in one, and ask their advice. And don’t take shit from landlords.”
You can see their complete article here.
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