End landlord extortionism

RNU have led the way in exposing and challenging ‘Landlord Extortionism’, an appalling  yet complex practice in which profiteers and speculators deliberately buy up multiple homes in a locality, then exploit massive levels of homelessness (which they have helped to create) by adding and setting higher rent charges onto properties just where the need for housing is the greatest.

RNU protest outside an extortionate letting agency in North Belfast.

RNU protest outside an extortionate letting agency in North Belfast.

This practice effects both working families and those who rely on housing benefit to pay their rent. Landlords, particularly in Catholic areas (where housing waiting lists are longer) set rent levels at significantly higher rates than what is both the norm elsewhere and what is available from ‘Housing Benefit’. They do this in the knowledge that families on long term waiting lists are often willing to pay more or indeed dip into other benefits intended to pay for food, heat, light etc.

The vicious cycle in this process occurs due to the fact that ‘Housing Benefit’ levels are deliberately set below the accepted standard rent for an area.  Landlords by refusing to keep rents low, are effectively conspiring against the state before going on to squeeze even more profits from their tenants, gaining both higher payments from working families, higher payments from ‘Housing Benefit’ and a ‘bit on top’ from those who rely on benefits.

Landlords and their letting agents  have used ‘principles of the market’ in a way that not only compromises the right of every family to a home, but which is also leaving vulnerable children without adequate food and clothing. To top things off, the standard of housing provided by the same letting agents is often sub-standard to say the least.

This is an appalling reality in 2014, and one which Republican Socialists cannot in good conscience ignore. In 2012 RNU decided it was time to highlight this practice and embarrass those involved, and at our 2014 Ard Fheis our membership voted to re-launch this campaign in a more aggressive and effective manner.

One of the worst offenders ‘Northern Properties’ on the falls road receives a daytime visit.

One of the worst offenders ‘Northern Properties’ on the falls road receives a daytime visit.

In Belfast we now regularly target the letting agencies that facilitate this practice, with a view to bringing public awareness to their antics and the plight of their victims who live close by.

This awareness raising has taken the form of open protesting outside the letting agents office, leafleting workers inside the letting agencies and at times non violent direct action against the same properties.

Republican Network for Unity believe that every family should have the right to a home without question, and that the practice of landlord-ism itself is an affront to that right. For this reason we are keen to expose at every opportunity what we view as further affront to a human right.

Believing that every family deserves the unquestionable right to a home, our long term vision for Ireland is one in which landlordism is abolished altogether. In the immediate however we openly demand that all landlords begin the process of dropping rents at least to the level provided by housing benefit.

End Landlord Extortion 3

Simply put, if it is considered enough by the state it should be enough for a landlord. RNU envisages a time in which tenants, particularly those relying on housing benefit, feel confident enough to simply withhold any further monies from a landlord in a ‘take it or leave it fashion’.

We accept that this would only appear likely when the political awareness of communities was raised to an extent wherein solidarity allowed for such circumstances. However we are committed to helping people work towards such a situation.

We also acknowledge that in the event of extortionate landlords lowering their rents, government departments would also follow suit by lowering housing benefit levels. This would keep vulnerable families on benefits in a state of poverty. Therefore in relation to our landlord campaign we effectively have two immediate demands; that rent levels are lowered while housing benefit levels remain static.

Another Belfast letting agent receives a nigh-time visit from RNU.

Another Belfast letting agent receives a nigh-time visit from RNU.