Why our housing advice service is so important

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks and our advice service remains busy with enquiries about housing. In March we supported three tenants against a very large rent increase — the landlord wanted to triple the rent for one of the tenants and double it for others.

We were successful in arguing a case for all the tenants and to their and our relief the rent rises were limited to something a little higher than inflation. But our relief was short lived.

Some weeks later the tenants received letters saying that the landlord was appealing against the valuation officer’s decision. So we were back to square one again and the tenants became very stressed. All the tenants are quite old (retired or near retirement age) and have lived in the neighbourhood for many decades.

We decided to do a number of things. We first wrote to the tenants’ MP to take up the issue as a constituency case. After receiving a reply from the landlord via the MP we could see that the landlord was un-moved and wanted to continue with the appeal.

Next we contacted the landlord directly. We spoke on the phone and asked the landlord to drop the appeal on compassionate grounds because of the distress it was causing the tenants. We were keen to maintain a good relationship with the landlord and spoke frankly about the  tenants circumstances and also the work we do in Fitzrovia. Sadly we got nowhere.

Rents are now so high in Fitzrovia that landlords are now seeking every opportunity to maximise their income. We know of many people who are concerned about being priced out of the neighbourhood and some who are already having to leave. It’s very distressing for all concerned.

The last option was to make sure that we got proper housing advice for the tenants and filled in the forms to ask for a hearing in front of the appeal panel. This we have now done and sometime this month we will attend a hearing with the tenants. We are confident that the landlord’s appeal will be dismissed.

But all this takes a lot of time. We have to communicate with all the tenants, deal with a number of different organisations and try to pull it all together with limited resources. We use a combination of paid workers and volunteers who have local knowledge to give the support and the proper advice.

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