Sheffield tenants slam “bad landlords” at city centre protest

Written by Sophie Henderson

Protestors rallied outside Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday to demand city-wide landlord licensing as part of their fight against “bad landlords”.

The socially-distanced demonstration was organised by ACORN, a community-based union of tenants, workers and residents, who support communities across the UK. 

ACORN Sheffield say they have seen an increase in their caseload during the pandemic, with complaints ranging from mould and housing in need of urgent repair to discrimination, harassment and assault.

“We shouldn’t even have to exist”, said Will Russ, ACORN member and Public Liaison Officer for the protest.

“But the Council can take too long, either by choice or by capacity.

“Landlord licensing would be a major step, even at the base level, to make sure that houses are fit for human habitation, you’re not renting from a scumbag, you’re not renting from a criminal who has housing-related offences and you’re protected in your home.”

At the protest, passers-by stopped to hear one tenant share their plight with a landlord, who charged over £100 in extra fees after rushing them to sign an empty contract when they were stuck in an emergency situation last December. 

Then one by one, union members piled up 50 red cardboard boxes with tenants’ testimonies of mistreatment written on them to form a ‘house’, barricading the entrance to the Town Hall.

A ‘house’ built from tenants’ testimonies barricading the entrance to the Town Hall

Emily, an ACORN member who managed health and safety at the protest explained: “We’re making a ‘house of bad landlords’ out of the stories to show that there is a lot of evidence that we need landlord licensing in the city

“People are sick of having complaints with their landlords”.

A selective licensing scheme is currently in place for landlords operating within London Road, Abbeydale Road and Chesterfield Road, but ACORN are calling for this to be implemented across the city. 

Licensing could mean that Sheffield landlords would have to show they are ‘Fit and Proper’, without criminal convictions which would affect their management, and would help to ensure that private properties are in a safe condition. 

Just last year, ACORN succeeded in reversing an increase in bills during the pandemic for residents of Park Hill flats in Sheffield. 

“We take action, we win for tenants, we stop evictions, we win money back, we get repairs done, but we can’t do that for everyone who needs it”, said Mr Russ.

“We are not a big enough organisation and we need support from a scheme like this to make sure that it’s done across the city”. 

 

Some of ACORN members’ testimonies

A spokesperson for the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said: “The overwhelming majority of landlords provide high quality homes and abide by the law. Rather than licensing, we need effective, rigorous enforcement to ensure we can root out the criminal operators that bring the wider landlord community into disrepute.

“Local authorities must use the powers they already have. A selective licensing scheme would not add new powers to prevent this kind of action; it would only increase the costs on law-abiding landlords and by extension, their tenants.”

Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, has been contacted for comment. 

For advice or support contact sheffield@acorncommunities.org.uk

Written by Sophie Henderson

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