Strike Group

This group is open to any housing association tenant or resident regardless of landlord who is withholding rent or service charge payments, either wholly or partially, or who aims to do so.

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My story is shocking. It’s about living in a dangerous building. It’s about harassment. We’ve had gas leaks which have been covered up by Onward. We’ve had dangerous electrics. It goes on and on.

Aims

The Rent and Service Charge group was set up to:

  • coordinate action across landlords;
  • provide solidarity and peer support to those taking rent or service charge strikes;
  • develop resources such as template letters that strikers can use; and
  • focus a campaign raising awareness of the action.

Why We Are Here

Attempts by participants to address the issues directly with their landlords, and in some cases through other routes have been futile. One member of the group commented:

“I am in despair as to how to stop these atrocious companies any other way. We’ve experienced diabolical rip-offs, incompetence and lies. They have damaged our lives for years and years. Many thousands of tenants across the sector experience endless failed attempts to get their problem sorted out. We are ground down.

“I honestly can’t see how anything other than withholding money is going to stop them. Even when the Social Housing White Paper is made law, I don’t believe that there is any other way to hold these massive, powerful corporations to account”

(Group member)

Councillors and members of Parliament complain to SHAC that they experience the same difficulties as tenants and residents when trying to engage with the associations. Either they are ignored or are misled about the work being done to address issues.

The Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman are both severely restricted in their ability to sanction housing associations, even when the landlords are shown to be non-compliant with their legal obligations.

Access to justice through the legal system is also problematic for tenants and residents, often requiring resources not available to many.

The strike is national, with tenants residing across London, Beckenham, Manchester, Chichester, Bolton, Seaford, Brighton, Stevenage, Luton, Southampton, Northampton, Sidcup, and Glasgow.

We currently have individual strikers or strike groups in 20 landlords. The 19 shown above, plus a smaller private landlord.

The Legal Side

Withholding payment can be in breach of a tenancy or lease agreement, but in other cases, the right to withhold service charge payments has legal protections. It depends on individual circumstances.

Find out more about the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 Section 21 Right to service charge information and Section 21A Right to withhold service charge payment.

There should be no need for withholding payment to lead to action as extreme as eviction, provided the tenant can pay the landlord what they owe.

For a start, legal action is a lengthy process. The timeframe would allow a tenant to decide whether they wanted to remove any grounds for eviction by paying up, or whether they wanted to make a stand with support from SHAC and other housing campaign groups.

Before going to court, there would need to be a series of letters threatening legal action against the tenant. The court process itself takes time. Even if a court orders repossession, there is another time gap while bailiffs are being instructed. Eviction is not an instant action that could catch anyone out.

Landlords can only take action after 8 weeks of arrears, so one option would be that the tenant would pay as much as needed to bring them under 8 weeks arrears. Another option would be to pay all the amount owed. Both would prevent the landlord taking legal action.

The second possibility is that the landlord threatens action, and the tenant decides they want to make a stand. This is one of the points of our group. The tenant wouldn’t be standing alone, but would have SHAC and the wider housing movement behind them. We would mount a massive campaign in support of any tenants facing a legal threat.

Another question is how likely it is that the landlord will take legal action. Interestingly, despite the enormous resources and power at the disposal of landlords, none have yet made a threat to do so. We assume that this is because landlords know that if they take a tenant to court, they would have to justify their behaviour. They clearly don’t want to have to do this.

We currently have a group of Clarion leaseholders who are withholding service charge increase payments from Clarion and have been doing so for more than 8 weeks. Clarion has not yet threatened them with legal action (see here).