Rent and service charge strikes are growing across England according to a new report published by SHAC.
The snapshot report was published following a survey of members, and sought to identify growth and trends.
I am withholding payment because Clarion raised the service charge 20% without informing me any details or reasons beforehand.
Nina, Clarion resident
It showed that the number of individuals currently withholding payment far outstrips former strikers amongst SHAC members at 92% to 8% respectively. The length of time that strikers have been withholding payment shows a clear, upward trajectory, with more than half having begun action in the last year.
Taken together, these are significant findings, especially set against analysis which showed an increase in collectivised action as opposed to tenants and residents acting independently. Just 14% of current strikers are acting independently compared to 34% of former strikers.
Strike Hit Landlords
The main groups of strikers were residents of NHG, Southern / Optivo, Hyde, L&Q, THCH, Orbit, One Housing / Riverside, Clarion, and MTVH. The size of the group for each landlord varied considerably and does not correlate to the size of the landlord.
MTVH has 33% of strikers, the largest single group, and has 57,000 homes. Next came Clarion Housing Group with 28% of strikers, although it is about twice the size of MTVH.
Some landlords represent the other end of the scale, for example Tower Hamlets Community Housing (THCH), with 8% of strikers despite only owning or managing 3,000 homes.
Service charges represent the primary single reason for withholding payment (61%). However, a significant proportion of strikes were triggered in response to multiple issues, many of which included service charges (36%). Other reasons included disrepairs, failure to address anti-social behaviour, failure to pay agreed compensation, lack of maintenance, or a rent dispute.
A Stark Warning to Housing Associations
The context of the report is the difficult, bureaucratic, time-consuming, long-winded and often frustrating official channels for complaints. These begin with the landlord’s own complaints process, then escalate to the Housing Ombudsman, Regulator of Social Housing, or First Tier Tribunal. All have been become less accessible and effective over time.
I’ve been on a service charge strike for three years because they haven’t acknowledged a complaint from 2021. Despite it being escalated to the Housing Ombudsman, I’ve had little contact from them.”
Ron, Gentoo tenant
SHAC therefore concludes that the findings offer a stark warning to housing associations. Tenants and residents are now more likely to withhold payment when a dispute arises than they were previously, and more likely to be part of a collective.
It is some time since mass rent strikes have been deployed in the UK, with the brief exception of student rent strikes during the Covid pandemic. In the intervening period, landlords and government have worked hard to close the avenues available to tenants and residents seeking independent arbitration in a dispute. This situation now appears to be on borrowed time.
Although the scale of rent or service charge strikes remain small, the trend toward growth and collectivism alongside other forms of direct action suggest a rise in militancy among tenants and residents.
SHAC will continue building the support available to tenants and residents withholding payment. See more about SHAC’s strike support here.