Swindon Tenants Campaign Group was formed to campaign against Swindon Borough Council’s proposal to sell off our homes to a Housing Association. Swindon tenants voted by 72.3% to 27.7% to reject the ‘transfer’ of our housing. The defeat of the Council’s proposal was a big victory in the face of odds stacked against us. Tenants were over the moon at such a result which would be considered a landslide if it had been an election. It goes to show what can be achieved with a little organisation.
Following our success in this ballot STCG decided to continue campaigning for the interests of tenants. The most important achievement since then was convincing the Council to pay off no more than £5 million a year of the ‘debt’. Originally they were planning to start by paying £8 million a year. This meant that there was an extra £3 million a year for the upkeep of tenants’ homes. Hence more key housing components (kitchens, bathrooms etc) have been renewed.
As a volunteer group of tenants what we can do depends upon how many people are involved. Why not join up with us to campaign to improve our homes and campaign for new council housing?
To get in touch with us email email@example.com or ring 07786 394593
I’ve lived in my council house 33yrs I’m 58yrs old don’t want 2 move can’t afford 2 move live near my daughter … I work part time not easy gettin a full time job at my age let alone part time …. And as 4 Amy’s comments I understand her situation but we all get older left on are own Not nice but that’s life …. We should not have 2 suffer worrying at our age when we will be put out of the place we love….worked hard 2 keep it up 2 standard …. Sorry not much else I can say its a sorry world… The gov certainly knows how 2 make people suffer .
I know how you feel
Can’t see it getting any better but we all live in hope.
I was struck by a front-page headline in the “Metro” magazine of 17th July on so many being condemned to pay unaffordable rents, with no hope of ever owning their own home, which is self-explanatory (as are the concerns expressed by Shelter) and one can only hope that if a comparatively “light” newspaper is waking up to the fact that so many are condemned to a lifetime of paying extortionate rents, with no hope of ever being able to afford a home of their own, perhaps this issue will come further up the political agenda.
It appears that the Chancellor’s idea of “fairness” is to add to the problem imposing “Pay to Stay” on low and middle earners and condemning many more people to the same fate – rather than doing anything meaningful to rein in “Buy to Let” landlords (many of them Tory MPs according to recent reports) who are exploiting the situation without any apparent hindrance and making thousands on the backs of the working poor: I note the concern registered in the “Metro” report that the cut in tax relief for “Buy to Let” investors may simply mean that they ratchet rents up still further and there is nothing obvious to stop them doing just that.
Having considered and researched this issue further, I would add a few extra points to my original e mail, which I hope might be addressed during any consultation on the draft legislation to be put before Parliament:
The preposterously low level at which this policy is to apply is bound to be a significant disincentive to work: I note the following government response in the original 2013 consultation paper on “Pay to Stay” for Social Housing tenants:
“Any incentive to reduce work, together with increased rents, could lead to higher benefit costs. The Government’s policy is to maintain downward pressure on the welfare bill. We are keen, therefore, in setting the threshold to find a balance so the tipping point is not reached where avoiding triggering the threshold becomes a significant consideration.”
In that context, the level at which the policy would apply (originally envisaged at £100k) was set at £60k outside London – although, in many areas, someone earning even that amount would not be in any position to buy on the open market and would struggle to pay the extortionate rents charged by most landlords, especially in areas such as Oxford.
The recent budget announcement, extending this policy to those earning half this amount, does not square with the above at all: if imposed as set out, this measure is bound to deter people earning below £30k (about £23k after tax & NICS) from going for promotion or otherwise bettering themselves. To describe such people as “wealthy” or “high earners” is preposterous and I can imagine no stronger incentive for someone to reduce their hours or seek a lower paid job than this iniquitous proposal.
The responses from Housing Associations, councils etc. to the original consultation on this policy in 2013 also included the following:
3.43 A large number of respondents thought that amending existing tenancy agreements which currently specify conditions for rent increase to charge higher rent than specified would not be possible under the current regulatory framework; could be considered ‘unfair’ under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations; and that a consultation with tenants would be required prior to any change to tenancy agreements.
The government appears to have responded to this issue by proposing to turn large areas of law and precedent on their heads.
Recent advice from the Chartered Institute of Housing indicates that:
As far as we understand the current proposal will apply across the board to new and existing customers. In order to do this, tenancies and tenancy law will have to be changed which will require primary legislation, which means that the legislation will have to pas through both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
I am at a loss to understand how this can even be considered in the case of long leaseholders, and note the advice on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website (quoted below) re the Human Rights legislation as it applies to the quiet enjoyment of one’s property, which specifically includes leases: I note the references to public interest etc. but I cannot imagine that the public interest would be served by effectively tearing up the law of contract, depriving leaseholders of property (i.e. a leasehold agreement) which they purchased in good faith and in many cases, depriving them of their home.
To illustrate how ridiculous this proposal is (as well as being monstrously unjust), I give a few parallel examples:
1. A Bank writes to the holder of a fixed term mortgage (when there were such things) and says, “We know that we entered into a legal agreement with you twenty five years ago and that you have faithfully fulfilled your part of the contract by making the due payments on the due dates; however, we have decided that times have changed, so we are tearing up your mortgage and enclose another one, requiring you to pay any amount we choose from now on. Please sign here and return by xx or we will take action to repossess your home”.
2. Oxford City Council writes to the University and says, “We note that you entered into a 999 year leasehold agreement with the City authorities for the land under the Sheldonian Theatre in 1664, but as you only paid a few guineas for that and times are hard, we are tearing it up and you now have to pay a full commercial rent for it: please sign here and return by xx, or we will seek a repossession order”.
Both cases (if not swiftly strangled at birth by any solicitor worth his salt) would surely end up in Court and the institutions which tried it would not only lose, but also incur immense and entirely deserved reputational damage for unjust and oppressive (not to say illegal) behaviour, as well as substantial costs.
I see absolutely no difference between the above two scenarios (ridiculous and unbelievable as they are) and the action which the Chancellor apparently intends to take against existing leaseholders. If anything, his action is worse, as it amounts to oppression and robbery by the state: leaseholders are, apparently, to have their property taken from them without any recompense or redress.
Aside from the issues outlined above, recent announcements elsewhere indicate that this measure (and, more especially, the 4 year 1% rent reduction and the right to buy proposal, which, in my view, amounts to nothing more than a “smash and grab” of charitable assets by effectively nationalising the housing associations and requiring them to sell their assets at a knock down rate) may, while causing immense hardship and distress to those leaseholders and tenants affected, be self defeating:
The “Social Housing” Magazine of July 2015 contained the following:
“The Office for Budget Responsibility has suggested that around 14,000 fewer ‘affordable homes’ will be built as a result to the change in the rent regime.
It said the 1 per cent annual rent reductions in the social rented sector for four years from April 2016 will directly reduce social landlords’ rental income, and therefore their financing for, and returns to, investing in new house building.
The OBR also said there is a risk that government policies – including the social rent measure and the Right to Buy proposals – could prompt the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to reconsider the classification of housing associations and move them from private to public entities.
It said: ‘If housing associations were to be classified as part of the public sector, their approximately £60bn of debt would be added to public sector net debt, while the policy announced in this budget would increase rather than reduce public sector net debt because the full amount of the rent reduction would then reduce public sector income, and outweigh the housing benefit and other expenditure savings.”
If the above comes to pass, the Chancellor will have scored a spectacular “own goal” by making far less than the £12bn savings on the welfare budget which he originally envisaged and completely swamping any savings made by incurring an additional £60bn of public debt.
I would be grateful for your views on the above – especially from the human rights and contract law angle. For a multitude of reasons, I (and, doubtless, countless others) devoutly hope that this iniquitous and frankly, idiotic scheme can either be radically revised or swiftly and unceremoniously buried.
Equality & Human Rights Commission Guidance:
Protection of property
You have the right to enjoy your property peacefully.
Property can include things like land, houses, shares, licences, leases, patents, money, a pension and certain types of welfare benefits.
A public authority cannot take away property or place restrictions on your use of your property without very good reason.
This right applies to companies as well as individuals.
If a public authority plans to build a road over someone’s land, it must have laws in place to let it do this. It must also have a procedure to check that a fair balance has been struck between the public interest in building the road and the individual’s right to their land.
(Example taken from Human rights, human lives, Department for Constitutional Affairs, 2006.)
In some situations, public authorities may interfere with your right to peaceful enjoyment of your property, for example by restricting your use of it or by taking it away.
This is only possible where the authority can show that its action has a proper basis in law and is necessary in the public interest.
The government must strike a fair balance between your interests as a property owner and the general interests of society as a whole.
If your property is taken away you should be entitled to compensation.
This right does not affect the ability of public authorities to enforce taxes or fines.
What the law says
Protocol 1, Article 1: Protection of property
Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of the State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.