Many of us have been horrified, though sadly not surprised, to discover that CJ Hole Lettings agency has been circulating letters to potential landlord clients with the headline "are you getting enough rent?" and positioning themselves as the agency which can extract the most rent from tenants.
This is a horrible example of a private letting agency taking advantage of an out of control housing market and the vulnerability of so many people trying to make homes for themselves, on limited incomes, with out-of-control rents and poor rights for tenants.
Given the current lack of protection for tenants from price rises, the practices of charging tenants fees, often extortionate ones, and the current state of the housing market in Bristol, so heavily dependent on private rented homes, it's no surprise that this has caused an outcry.
I'm pleased that Bristol is a city which is home to a thriving and growing community organisation campaigning on fair treatment for tenants - ACORN - and also proud, though not surprised, that thousands of people have already signed a petition condemning the actions of CJ Hole's local office taking this action.
Labour has made clear that we won't tolerate this sort of behaviour and yes, we will legislate to stop it.
- ban letting agencies from charging tenants fees;
- bring in a landlord registration scheme - linked to decent standards for homes;
- change the way tenancy contracts are made, giving tenants more protection and introducing a presumption that they will be three year tenancies, if that suits the tenant;
- build 200,000 more homes each year and when the economy grows, build more;
- take on property developers who sit on land without building on it;
- use the recommendations of the Lyons review of housing to create a national strategy for homes and housing.
Locally I will work with and support ACORN in their campaign to implement an ethical lettings charter and push for this to be linked to any registration scheme in Bristol. I will also promote this example in Westminster and champion this as an example of local action to tackle a national priority.
I call on the local CJ Hole office to stop using this practice at once and to commit to following the ACORN ethical lettings charter.
Yet another reason why we need a Labour government urgently.