Renters' union accuses council of siding with 'criminal landlords' over evictions

Community union Acorn has accused the council of backtracking on a promise to stop revenge evictions in the city
Community union Acorn has accused the council of backtracking on a promise to stop revenge evictions in the city

A community union has blasted the council for failing renters in the city and accused them of siding with “criminal landlords over tenants”.

Acorn, which campaigns to help tenants, claimed that Brighton and Hove City Council is preparing to “scrap” a policy on revenge evictions less than a month after being passed at a meeting of councillors.

The council has legal powers to intervene in cases where landlords want to evict tenants who raise concerns around mould or disrepair. The council can issue improvement notices to prevent such evictions from taking place.

A report being presented at this evening’s meeting of the council’s housing committee recommends a review of the current enforcement policy and states: “A zero-tolerance type approach could be deemed as being disproportionate based on available evidence about the level of serious disrepair.”

The report also stated that, had such a policy been adopted since April last year, 462 notices could have been served to landlords across the city.

“This wouldn’t have necessarily increased the number of properties improved. Potentially this could have reduced improvements or delayed required improvements as landlords would be taking legal action to challenge the notices, rather than working with the local authority to make the required changes to their properties,” the report said.

A spokeswoman for Acorn accused the council of being “unable to provide the leadership Brighton’s renters need” to address the issues they are facing.

She said: “Phelim Mac Cafferty’s Green administration has once again shown they side with criminal landlords over renters.

“They have no plans to address the safety crisis in Brighton. They don’t implement democratic made by councillors. They consistently backtrack on their promises and have shown time and time again that they are unable to provide the leadership Brighton’s renters need.

“Given the recent tragic news of deaths in low-quality housing, we’re not prepared to wait until this happens in Brighton before the council takes action.”

A spokesman for the Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We are disappointed to read Acorn’s allegations - like them, we care deeply about the lives of renters in our city.

“We have always stated that we want to work constructively, but inflammatory and incorrect statements such as suggesting that the council is taking the side of criminal landlords is not accurate and does nothing to support our residents.

“It is not true to state that we do not have plans, and in the report coming to the housing committee today, we will be progressing further with the work on landlord licensing, recommending the review of the current enforcement policy, which was passed during the last Labour administration, and considering options about a local rogue landlord database.

“Regardless of Acorn’s actions and comments, we will continue trying to improve the lives of our renters throughout the city through the processes available to us.”

Councillors will discuss the state of the private rented sector in the city in the council meeting from 4pm today.