Are Renters Action Groups like ACORN, London Renters Union and Living Rent annoying, pesky, Communist scallywags or positive force for good?

Over the last couple of years tenant action groups like ACORN, London Renters Union and Living Rent have popped up, caught the eye of the national media and are spreading like wildfire across the United Kingdom.

Undeniably, they’re tapping in to a section of society that has a few things to say about rental conditions in the UK, but the question remains, are they a good thing or bad thing?

Are they having a positive or negative impact on renting? Are the organisations a good forum for renters to have their voices heard? What do their actions do to the state of renting? Are they going to change the behaviours of landlords and letting agents? Are they likely to improve housing conditions?

Before I progress to give my point of view, here’s a list of some of the renters unions across the country.

ACORN Birmingham
ACORN Brighton
ACORN Bristol
ACORN Newcastle
ACORN Manchester
ACORN Sheffield
ACORN South Belfast
Greater Manchester Housing Action
London Renters Union
Guildford Private Renters Association
Living Rent

So, annoying pesky Communist scallywags or positive force for good?

Let’s get some context first. Why do they exist? What are they trying to achieve?

Tenants Unions exist to give a voice to the millions of renters who live in Dickensian housing conditions. There’s really no point waxing lyrical about the state of housing, we all know it’s often shocking and sometimes lethal. Groups like ACORN, London Renters Union and Living Rent represent vulnerable and disadvantaged renters who are taken advantage of by terrible, criminal and rogue landlords.
Central Government has taken too light a touch dodgy landlords over the years, probably from excessive lobbying from regressive organisations like the Residential Landlords Association and National Landlord Association.
Due to this, Local Councils don’t have the money or willingness to tackle rogue landlords.
So who’s going to speak up for the tenants when they’re forced to live in terrible conditions?
Years ago, tenants unions didn’t exist.
Their creation is as a direct result of the lack of action from government (at all levels) and the greed of some landlords.

So, are tenants unions a positive force for good?
Yes! A very loud, rapidly growing and powerful voice for the under-represented renting population.
They created the first renters forum.
They are to be highly commended for their work.
Local level organising effectively and regularly will continue to have their and renters much-needed voices heard.

But do they go about their activities in the right way?
No, I don’t think they do.
Undoubtedly tenants and renters need to have their voices heard. As I stated earlier, nobody else is standing up for the UK’s 12,000,000 renters – but, is the action by Tenants Unions really going to change the behaviour of landlords and letting agents?
Yes they’ve fought to get tenants deposits back from the odd landlord or letting agent, yes they leave reviews on the internet about landlords and letting agents, yes they picket outside letting agents, but that’s not going to change the market as a whole.
There are too many terrible landlords and letting agents out there for groups like ACORN, London Renters Union and Living Rent to have an affect on.

Landlords and letting agents are commercial organisations – they need to be penalised commercially for any wider impact to take place. Landlords and letting agents behaviour needs to change as a whole before renting improves.

More on the bigger shift in landlord and letting agent behaviour in my next blog post when I look at the role of landlord associations and letting agent associations. Why don’t they do more to raise standards? They’re essentially Landlord Unions in the same way ACORN and Living Rent are tenant’s unions, so why don’t they use their money and power to improve renting from the landlord end?

What do you think?
Have something to add?

There’s a thread discussing this post over on the renters forum:

Photo by Caleb Lucas on Unsplash