A new Easton-based community union, ACORN (Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now!), is campaigning to scrap what it calls “rip off tenancy fees” in Bristol. The group has been active since May, and has over 100 members fighting for the rights of private tenants in the BS5 area, with an aim of expanding to the whole city.
Home ownership is now at its lowest point since 1987, with just 65.2% of homes registered as owner occupied. The number of tenants has almost doubled since 2003 to 3.9 million last year; for the first time most people are renting privately and are more reliant on housing benefits to cover their rent than ever before. With almost twice as many private rentals in Easton than other parts of Bristol, things have gotten so bad that the area constituted over 25% of all complaints about privately rented accommodation in 2012.
Tenants are often intimidated out of making complaints due to the threat of eviction and the shortage of homes. At present, the majority of tenants have 6 month secure contracts, after which they face rent hikes and fees of up to £500 each time when forced to move.
The Community campaigners are often seen in their red t-shirts, drumming up support on the streets of Bristol and have over 1500 signatures for their petition. On November 1st ACORN members will be participating in an aptly ghoulish demonstration outside letting agents on Church Road, complete with Halloween fancy dress (think vampire lettings agents) in order to highlight the horrors of private letting.
By Matt Hollinshead