New Orleans Catching up on Skype this week, it was great to hear the progress ACORN Bristol had made in the United Kingdom in advancing the campaign to win what they call an Ethical Letting Charter or a model set of standards for landlords and tenants. The campaign has been developing for months as tenants organized in Easton and other neighborhoods in Bristol have steadily banged on letting agents or real estate rental agencies to change their business practices on security, leases, and repairs. Given the way the world works in Britain, the organization cannot just pound on the City Council for relief, so the campaign is forced to go after the industry and individual companies to win agreement on the standards. After hard work the first company has voluntarily signed an agreement, so the bubble has been burst and ACORN members are determined to bring the rest in line.
The full text of the agreement is well laid out, but too long to include all of it here. The key items though are utterly reasonable and well summarized. The Ethical Letting Charter calls for the following major principles:
The ethical lettings charter centres upon a commitment to security of tenure; beginning with support for and use of recurring Assured Short hold Tenancies (AST’s); the strengthening of conditions for serving notice to tenants which enable more ethical evictions and repossessions; as well as extending time frames
Commitments centre upon recurring AST’s with no extra cost; a phasing out of tenancy fees, beginning with their transparent valuation including costs; the reduction of deposits to affordable amounts, stored within accredited tenancy deposit protection schemes that are not arbitrarily reducible; as well as the careful scrutiny of rent prices
Commitments centre upon making and keeping properties at a statutory and recommended level of quality, maintenance as well as health & safety. Checks, repairs and improvements should be carried out within sufficient time frames and to recommended legal standards
Commitments centre upon the stopping of discrimination against potential tenants due to their belonging to any protected group and/or being welfare recipients and/or parents/carers with dependents; as well as work with ACORN and the local authority to promote equal access in the future
ACORN intends to award “a Gold, Silver or Bronze Accreditation, reflecting the level of commitments” made by landlords and rental agencies. The charter is firmly rooted in reality and understands that some of the improvements will take time and therefore ACORN indicates that it will monitor the signatories carefully as they move “towards greater levels of commitment” and improve their accreditation ratings over time.
This is a breakthrough campaign for tenants’ rights in Britain, and since the same issues pop up all around the world, it’s worth following closely.
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