5 reasons we took to the streets for a Renters’ Reform Bill

5 reasons we took to the streets for a Renters’ Reform Bill

Talking to renters in their local communities is a key part of our Renters’ Reform Bill campaign. Over the past few months, we’ve run 17 street campaign stalls in Bristol, London, Plymouth, Sheffield, Uxbridge, Kensington, Blyth Valley, Blackburn and Norwich. Almost 50,000 people signed our petition and we’ve collected dozens of handwritten messages on our banner about why people are done with renting. Street campaigning always plays a crucial part in our campaigns – read on to find out why…

In the past twenty years, the private rented sector doubled in size. But renting regulation hasn’t kept up. The picture is bleak. Nearly 40% of the UK’s 11 million private renters have been forced to live in dangerous or unhealthy conditions. They fear that complaining will encourage their landlord to evict them in return. The government knows the system is broken. In 2019, it promised to reform private renting. It planned to begin by ending Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. Fast forward two years and we’re still in the same position.

Now, we need the government to deliver. And street campaigning will help us hold the government to account. Here’s why we’re using it to make clear the need for a Renters’ Reform Bill. 

Our Blackburn campaigning stall

1. Hear the stories behind the statistics 

We’ve got stats coming out of our ears that prove private renting isn’t fit for purpose. One in five private renters has moved into a home with a broken safety device or essential appliance. And over the last nine years, private rents on two-bed homes in Hillingdon, Uxbridge rose three times faster than average, local wages.

But having the chance to speak face-to-face shows the real impact behind the numbers. For example, the anxiety on a mother’s face when she tells you she cannot afford a one-bed flat for her and her son, after a relationship breakdown. It’s no secret that thousands of renters pay unaffordable levels of rent for homes that aren’t well maintained. In Uxbridge and London more broadly, poor standards in properties were the main issue:

I’m done with renting because of mold in my bedroom and a broken bath that has never been fixed.

The picture was the same in Blythe Valley. Renters feel unable to report dangerous conditions in case their landlords hand the repair costs down to them. One renter said: 

I’m spacing out complaining about repairs because I’m worried that if I do too much at once, it might come back at me. My washing machine is bust, the grill blows the electricity, and the extractor fan is broken.

These are just some of the stories people told us in their own words. They’re powerful and show that change must happen now.

Passers-by in Sheffield share shocking stories about what they’ve had to put up with as renters

2. Raise awareness of the government’s plans and how we can influence them

We pay close attention to what the government does and says about housing issues. But the average person can find it all a bit vague and struggle to engage. Considering changes to the renting system would impact millions of renters, it’s vital everyone knows what the government is planning – and how to have their say on any changes.

Visiting local communities is a great way to raise awareness about the Renters’ Reform Bill. We talk to locals about the most pressing issues facing renters and build support for our campaign asks. These are:

  • Scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions  
  • Creating a new National Landlord Register 
  • Increasing funding for councils to tackle bad landlord practices 

Nearly 80% of private renters support introducing a landlord register – but it’s not just renters. For example, we collected 300 supporting signatures in Blackburn, where a local landlord said:

A national register would create transparency and better relationships between landlords and renters.

When out on the streets, we can raise awareness of governmental decision-making among those affected. And importantly, our petition provides a means to influence the outcome.  

3. Show politicians that we’re sitting up and paying attention 

In August 2019, over 5,800 of our supporters completed a government consultation about scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. Since then, in the last two Queen’s Speeches, the government committed to delivering a Renters’ Reform Bill. Now, it must act on that promise.

There are so many other issues on the minds of politicians; from climate change to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That’s why we must not let the government forget about the Renters’ Reform Bill. While the government juggles a packed political agenda, we’ve built solid support for the bill and helped renters get their voices heard.

As our political representatives, MPs have the power to bring in laws to create long-term change. But it’s important to remember that we, their constituents, also have power.

In 2022, we’ll help people meet MPs across the country. We’ll also continue to show the new Housing Minister for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), Michael Gove, know that renters are sitting up, paying attention and expecting action. 

4. Provide creative, engaging ways to show your support

As our activism officer, I’m passionate about creating varied opportunities for people to take action with us while visiting our street stalls. There are so many creative ways to make our voices heard. This is especially true when we’re out on the streets – and I don’t mean by shouting!  

We want to give people the chance to say how they feel in their own words. By collecting messages on our ‘Done With Renting’ banner at our street stalls, people have seen what other renters said and shared their own experiences. Running a creative activity alongside petitions is a visually impactful way to engage people. Later in the campaign, we’ll take the banner to decision-makers to read for themselves. 

Judge Robert Rinder visiting our street stall
Our ambassador, Judge Robert Rinder, writes a message about why we need a Renters Reform Bill whilst visiting the Hackney Hub 

5. Add passionate people to our Housing Activist Network and hold government to account 

In 2022, we’ll keep pressuring politicians to deliver on the changes they’ve promised. But we need your help! We’re looking for people who want to get trained up to meet their MPs, join us at campaigning events, and take part in creative actions using arts and crafts.  

If you’ve been inspired by this blog about street campaigning, and want to do more with us, join our Housing Activist Network. You’ll be the first to hear about campaigning opportunities, get the chance to build new skills, and be part of a once-in-a-generation campaign to change renting for good. Sign up here https://www.research.net/r/HousingActivistNetwork today. We look forward to seeing you sometime soon!

Shelter staff member standing in front of our sign that says Enough is Enough
Join our Housing Activist Network, where you’ll have the chance to join us at future campaign events