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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 July 2021

Housing: Join the service charge 'strike'

photo Senan

photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

A Shac member said:

"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."


Suzanne Muna, Shac secretary

Housing association tenants and residents have agreed to hold a coordinated service charge 'strike'. Residents are frustrated at repeated extortionate and often erroneous service charges, disrepairs, shoddy maintenance, and cladding failures.

Residents must climb a rockface when trying to resolve issues with landlords. The system of neighbourhood managers has largely been abandoned in favour of call centres, which are far less efficient and effective.

Ignored

Complaints are routinely lost, or remain unresolved for long periods. Callers must go through lengthy security questions each time they request an update.

Some associations automatically 'close' a complaint once it has been running for a set period, regardless of whether it has been resolved or not, in order to meet arbitrary internal targets.

Residents also find approaching the regulator and ombudsman largely futile. Cuts to their powers have rendered them mainly unable to offer satisfactory protection or support.

The ombudsman levied a 100 fine against a landlord with a recorded turnover of 17 million. In another case, the regulator ignored complaints about slum conditions on a rundown London estate for years. It took an ITV report before it began investigating the association. Even councillors and MPs complain to the Social Housing Action Campaign (Shac), frustrated at getting unsatisfactory responses from the landlords and housing association senior managers.

The legal system offers little protection. Legal aid is no longer available for many housing issues after it was cut by the government. The process also requires a level of commitment and capacity that is hard for those working, studying, and trying to raise families.

Court

Going to court is rarely a quick process. Even if residents achieve a ruling in their favour, there is no guarantee that the landlord will act.

At a recent Shac meeting, a housing barrister described having to go back to court repeatedly to enforce court orders. These wealthy landlords often prefer paying meagre fines to putting things right.

Tenants and residents thus increasingly conclude that withholding rent and/or service charge is the only way to get their landlord's attention and achieve some genuine engagement.

The strike network - newly formed by Shac - has helped coordination across different landlords, and provides practical resources and support. To date, 17 housing associations are affected, including some of the biggest. The strike is national, involving tenants as far afield as Southampton, London and Glasgow.

Rent and service charge strikes have been used successfully on a small-scale, periodic basis. Housing associations provided homes to three million people in Britain. If this tactic were to become widespread, it could rebalance the considerable inequality that concentrates power in the hands of housing association landlords and their institutional support.

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In The Socialist 7 July 2021:


What we think

Batley & Spen byelection: Another condemnation of Starmer's New Labour


The Struggle for World Socialism

The struggle for world socialism


NHS

Fight is on to save our NHS

NHS workers' protests


News

Fund the measures needed to stop the Covid spread in schools

Manchester death rate caused by deprivation

Bristol: Police to blame for protest violence


Workplace news

Royal London Hospital strike win

Morrisons private equity takeover proposals - Usdaw needs to move to a war footing

Safety campaign in DWP: What has happened to our ballot?

Striking Brush workers continue to protest 'fire and rehire'

Striking Ealing parking attendants rally outside council

Derby academies closed by strikes against brutal cuts and changes

Oaks Park strikers rally


Socialist history

Terry Fields MP, Prisoner DV 3695 - The jailing of 'poll tax' rebel and Militant


International news

COP26: Socialist change to end the climate crisis

Israel: Hospital ancillary workers strike over pay parity and workload


Campaigns news

Rising against a rigged and rotten system

Why did I choose the Socialist Party?

Housing: Join the service charge 'strike'

Stop environmental destruction in Barnsley

"It's great to be back": Come to a Socialist Party in-person meeting

We need funds to fight Tory NHS attacks

Road closures: Hackney residents have not been consulted


Reviews

The story of Joe Clough - Britain's first black bus driver

Exhibition: What next for the statue of slave trader, Edward Colston?

TV - Statue wars: one summer in Bristol


 

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