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Campaigns for fair letting practices gather pace across Bristol

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bristol West at the next election took on a rep from a Bristol based letting agency on live radio this week as she is campaigning to ensure fair lettings practices for the 46K Bristolians who rent privately. 

Labour has promised to ban letting agent fees for tenants and to introduce longer-term tenancies with predictable rents. Bristol Council has launched a scheme initiated by the last Labour government in inner-city areas requiring landlords to apply for a license and show they meet ‘fit and proper’ standards. In addition, this week saw an action group, ACORN, out in Easton campaigning to inject fairness into the city’s rental sector.

Over 43,000 people in Bristol rent privately, an increase of 76% since 2001. A survey of letting agents found that 94 per cent imposed additional charges on tenants on top of the deposit and rent in advance. Fees are extremely variable, but on average tenants are forced to pay £355 to their lettings agents every time they move house with some paying as much as £500. These costs are putting addition pressure on renters with 54 per cent of people surveyed saying they faced financial difficulties covering fees.

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s candidate for Bristol West, said:

“Bristol is a city reflecting the trend across the country that more and more people are renting for the long term as they struggle to get onto the housing market or have to be flexible to move for work. It is not right they are penalised for that with random rip off charges and insecurity about their tenancies.

“Only in the rental market are both sides of the transaction charged – if you buy a house, you don’t pay the estate agent anything. It makes no sense. Furthermore, these fees are not one offs, from the results of my survey, it seems to be the norm that if you want to renew your lease at the end of its term, even though this is good for the landlord, you get whacked with another fee.”

The University of Bristol have set up their own lettings agency in an attempt to ensure that students and landlords benefit from long term, fair and quality agreements.

Thangam added:

“UBU are a fantastic example of it being perfectly possible for a lettings agency to be both ethical and financially viable. As a trustee of UBU I will continue to work with them for the benefit of our city’s rental sector and the quarter of residents who use it – this helps students directly but others indirectly as UBU influence the market.

“What all of this activity shows is that more can be done to stand up for renters. It’s outrageous that Bristol West’s MP isn’t supporting this move, despite thousands of his constituents facing this costly problem at a time when people are really feeling hard-up.”

Published in the Bristol Post on 30/06/14. Read more at the source.

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