Crabs on a tapeworm and how to deal with them

Some unusual candour from a Citylets spokesman in the Scotsman yesterday. A survey claims to show that private sector rents in the city went up in the last year, especially the last quarter.[*] He said:

There is a suspicion that the recent banning of agent fees to tenants has had an upward impact on rents. Several agent clients have suggested this to be the case and our data seems to support this view.

Putting aside the falsehood that banning agent fees is “recent” (they’ve been illegal since 1985), this boils down to:

If you start to enforce the law, we’ll just rob you legally instead.

He’s admitting two things: firstly that protests around the issue of fees have got letting agents rattled. It’s not just this one issue, individually tenants can be dealt with, so much as the thought that if tenants stand to stand up for their rights over one thing, why would we stop there?

More revalingly, his comments show that the core of the relationship between tenant and landlord is confrontational and exploitative: the better things are for landlords, the worse they are for tenants. It’s not a case of “a few bad apples” or “criminal” landlords: the whole thing stinks. If a law starts to be enforced, then they campaign to change it in their favour and if that doesn’t work, then they get “their” money another way.

A landlord and a letting agent, pictured yesterday (artists' impression)

A landlord takes money from someone by virtue of “owning” a residence. They didn’t build it, they may not still be paying the bank for it and as any tenant knows, they spend the absolute minimum maintaining the property. You only hear from them if they don’t get the rent on time. We need shelter as part of our everyday life, they get their means of survival from our effort, as parasitic as a tapeworm.

As if that wasn’t enough, we have letting agents taking a cut. They’re parasitic upon landlords–it’s as if a tapeworm had crabs.

If they can’t get their cut from the landlord, then they’ll take it from us, unless it’s too much trouble for them. Individually we can be intimidated or put out of our homes, so we have to organise together to stop their blood sucking (or piss-taking).

We’re organising a meeting on the 13th of February to discuss ways and strategies to collectively organise against attacks on our living conditions like these. It’ll feature a speaker from Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group and also a discussion of the “Solidarity Network” model. Watch this space for details, and bring your ideas.

[*] amusingly, the Scotsman have had to print a correction to their original story. Turns out the truth is hard to get to when you put a letting agency and a newspaper in the same room.