Renters from across Bristol have been fighting for – and winning – changes to make the renting system in their city fair. This guest blog was written by Clare, to share her experiences as a leader of the Bristol Fair Renting campaign.
Hi, I’m Clare – a member of the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign.
The campaign was launched by local renters in April 2021 to demand urgent change to tackle high rents, poor conditions, and discrimination in private renting. I joined in October after reading an email from campaign member Kate, who had to leave Bristol after experiencing benefits and age discrimination. I had recently had a similar experience, and reading Kate’s story inspired me to join the campaign.
Why renters need urgent change
I spent a year trying to find a home to rent, but was turned down over and over again because I received housing benefits, and worked part-time to the capacity that I was able to, due to my circumstances. This experience left me feeling that I was not good enough. That I was ‘not worthy’ of a home. It took me to a place of desperation and a fear of becoming homeless, which very nearly happened.
In the end, I was able to find a place to rent at the start of the first lockdown, only because I was happy not to view it, and assured the landlord I would be coming off benefits, and could show them proof of earnings from a full-time job within two months.
My accommodation is only just big enough, and it would be nice to have a bit more space. I can’t fit a double bed in my bedroom, which is frustrating and embarrassing. My clothes are crammed in a children’s wardrobe, as that’s all there’s space for.
Although I’m in full time employment now, the cost of renting a one bed flat in Bristol is increasingly unaffordable. My rent has just been increased, and if it goes up any higher, I’m not sure how I’ll manage. My neighbour pays a higher rent than I do for a smaller bedsit, and the landlord has put her rent up by an extra 75 pounds a month since the end of lockdown.
My friend is a working single mum who claims universal credit to help her pay the rent. She was recently evicted from her home and is now in emergency accommodation because she couldn’t find anyone who would rent to her, or anywhere she could afford.
The private rental market has been spiralling out of control for too long now, leaving private renters with little or no choice.
You only need to look at what is on the market to see that local rent prices are astronomical compared to local wages, and if you phone up and say you’re in receipt of benefits… good luck.
How we’re taking action
Being a part of the Fair Renting Campaign has given me a place to meet like-minded people who want and need to see change happen. We have joined together as a collective to stand up and say: ‘This ain’t right!’
Our team is passionate about uniting Bristol renters as a community, and we have been building solidarity by running stalls, leafleting and chatting to renters across the city. So far, over 2,000 people have signed our manifesto for change.
We’ve also been working hard to influence local politicians to bring the change we are fighting for. Last April, the Campaign co-hosted a mayoral assembly with ACORN Bristol, where Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees committed to tackle discrimination in the renting system and to lobby the national government for powers to control rents locally.
Since then, we have been working with Councillor Tom Renhard to help shape a Motion to tackle benefits discrimination. This includes anti-discrimination clauses being included in future property licenses, supporting renters to challenge and report letting agents and landlord who discriminate against them, and creating a local action plan to stamp out benefits discrimination.
The Motion was debated at Full Council in January, and I made a speech, calling on the council to take urgent action.
We need the council to protect renters, and for these harmful practices to be exposed and stopped. Today, councillors, we ask you to take one action to improve the lives of renters. Vote in favour of the Golden Motion, and protect our communities.An excerpt from my speech.
The Motion passed with an amazing 40 councillors (out of 47 who voted) supporting the proposal! Many councillors stood up and shared their own experiences of renting, and there was a strong feeling of unity in the room.
Mayor Rees has also made a start on lobbying the national government for the power to control rents locally, which is urgently needed.
Next stop…Renters’ Summit
The Bristol Fair Renting Campaign is co-hosting a Renters’ Summit with Bristol City Council and ACORN Bristol at 6.30pm on Wednesday 2 March. This will be an opportunity for renters, councillors, and the wider community to come together and start a conversation about what a local action plan to stamp out benefits – and wider – income discrimination needs to include, as well as what rent control could look like for Bristol.
Are you a renter, or interested in helping to shape the future of our local renting system? Join us at this event to have your say.
You can register here: Bristol Renters Summit 2022 Tickets, Wed 2 Mar 2022 at 18:30 | Eventbrite
Join our campaign
Change is coming, but we need as many people as possible to unite and call together for a fair renting system.
Sign our manifesto
People of Bristol – please read and sign our manifesto for change, to stand in solidarity with us and demand a fair renting system for our city. Show your support for the Bristol Fair Renting Manifesto.
Help lead the campaign
We are keen to chat to renters in Bristol who are passionate about the need to change the local renting system. If you are interested in joining our team, or would like to share your story with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.