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Green councillors call on council to adopt 'ACORN Ethical Lettings Charter'

Green Party motion to full council will protect thousands of tenants across Bristol from rogue landlords.

Thousands of tenants in rented homes across Bristol could soon be protected from rogue landlords, thanks to the Green Party which will next week call on Bristol City Council to adopt an ethical lettings charter.

For the last year, the Green Party has been working in close collaboration with ACORN - a community-based organisation, with international roots, campaigning for social justice - to ensure that the charter becomes part of the council’s standards for both council and private sector housing throughout Bristol.

Its aims have been supported by politicians and high-quality estate agents, and last year more than 1,600 people signed a petition backing the charter.

The Charter sets out Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels of ethical behaviour for landlords and lettings agencies. This will allow private tenants to easily identify landlords and agencies committed to providing high-quality housing in the private sector. It will also encourage landlords to move towards more tenant-supportive behaviours.

In the UK, renting is becoming more and more an end as opposed to the means to an end. Demand for rental accommodation is outstripping supply by nine to one, but one in three private rented homes don’t meet basic standards.

Into this mix, the "ACORN Ethical Lettings Charter" is a declaration of decency and a statement of intent designed to help create a fair, professional, and ethical, private rental sector in Bristol.

The Green Party has set out a motion for full council on March 17 that will:

  • commit the council to meet the Charter's standards for council-owned and maintained properties;
  • require the council to contact landlords and lettings agencies in Bristol to encourage them to sign up to the Charter;
  • and provide information to tenants of the existence of the Charter as a guide to good practice in the private rental sector.

Tony Dyer, Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Bristol South, said,

“the Charter is designed to encourage existing best practice in the private rental sector, and will be welcomed by all good landlords and responsible letting agents. It is in their own interest to help drive out bad landlords who bring the private rental sector into disrepute”.

Anna McMullen, ACORN member and Green Party council candidate for Easton, said,

"Slum landlords, who charge extortionate letting fees, fail to keep their properties in good repair, and offer only short contracts so that tenants are constantly at risk of being evicted, are not welcome in Bristol's property market. The Charter sends a strong message to these people that Bristol has a standard that should be kept, and that good business will be rewarded”.

Darren Hall, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, added:

“There is a chronic housing shortage across Bristol. Successive Labour and Tory governments have failed to provide enough social housing and housing that is actually affordable. The private rented sector has increasingly been used to create a safety net for local authorities who can’t deal with rising homelessness. Housing benefit intended to help those in need ends up in the pockets of private landlords, with little or no checks on the actual quality of the properties”.

The Charter will be set out at a full meeting of the council on March 17, 2015.

If the council adopts the charter, it will join similar initiatives that the council promotes, such as The Food Charter, The Workplace Wellbeing Charter, and The Modern Charter for Local Freedom.

If you are interested in hearing more about Bristol’s housing crisis, there is a panel discussion happening on March 11th, details and tickets here
http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/forum-is-free-housing-energy-tickets-15857389880?aff=es2

Notes

A copy of the Charter is available online at: http://tinyurl.com/nxug7rf [pdf]

ACORN came into existence in the 1970s in Arkansas, and is now an international collection of local communities, bringing together 80,000 families world-wide, to campaign for social and economic justice.

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