Living Rent: Pushing Back Against the System

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by Ben Francis (he/him)

‘Living Rent’ is a tenant’s union that operates across Scotland with different branches all over the country including in Govanhill and Shawlands. The Union is relativity new and has grown to be the largest tenant’s union in Scotland.

The Union in its own words.

Can you sum up what Living Rent is and dose?

“Living Rent is Scotland’s tenants’ and community union. We are a democratic organisation run for and by our members around issues that our members care about. Our member defence teams are an important part of the union. We defend members who have had their deposits stolen, we help negotiate rent reductions, and defend our members from the harassment from landlords. In coming together to defend our members against landlords and letting agents, we’ve stopped evictions, and won tens of thousands of pounds worth in repairs and compensations.

Another big part of our union’s activities is fighting for improvements in the law, which we did with the 2016 Private Housing Act – which guarantees tenants greater right of tenure and ban no-fault evictions.”

What is the Union’s vision for renting in Scotland?

We want to end housing insecurity across Scotland. We want better quality and affordable housing for all and for tenants to have more rights: we want to be able to fight rent increases properly, as the current system to challenge rent increases does not protect tenants who can’t afford the new rent. We want to see greater regulations of landlords, so that they can be held accountable for repairs and prevented from increasing rents. We also want to see a huge increase in social housing and an end to luxury for-profit projects

How does Living Rent protect its member tenants?

Living Rent is organised locally into neighbourhood branches and it’s here on the branch level that much of our collective action to defend members takes place. The cornerstone of this is through ‘member defence’, the strategy by which members support one another to take action to address issues in their housing situation. Branch members will discuss the situation and form plans to help secure improvements.In the past we’ve held protests outside letting agents or organised letter-writing campaigns, to try to get the attention of landlords so we can hold a face-to-face meeting to negotiate a better deal. Doing this together as a union, rather than individually, means we have strength in numbers, and makes it much harder for landlords to ignore our demands.

How fast is Living Rent growing and what impact has it had for it’s members and renters in general so far?

Across the UK, tenants’ unions are the fastest-growing type of union and Living Rent is no exception to this. Despite being founded just 8 years ago, Living Rent has expanded rapidly since, growing our membership and neighbourhood branches. LR has thousands of members across Scotland, and the past year has seen branches founded in areas such as Govanhill, Shawlands and Leith in Edinburgh.As Living Rent has grown, we’ve enjoyed many important successes too. On the local level, we can point to victories in member defence that have made real, tangible improvements to our members’ lives. Through our branch campaigns, we’ve taken action on pressing issues affecting communities. The Waste Crisis campaign in Govanhill and Glasgow beyond has secured commitments by Glasgow City Council to scrap the bulk uplift charge and reinstate backcourt teams. But arguably the most important impact Living Rent has had so far has been on the national level, ensuring the voice of renters is not ignored in national conversations. Last August the Scottish government committed to introducing rent controls. This policy was unthinkable just a few years ago, but this pledge comes off the back of years of tireless campaigning on the issue by Living Rent.