This campaign was set up in 2013 to try and speak out for renters during the passage of crucial pieces of housing legislation in the Assembly. 6 years later, it’s time to call it a day. But I think renters are in a much better place than when we started, and we’re on our way to having better rights.
I’m Liz. When I set this up, I was living – like so many others – in another poorly managed flat with high rent and couldn’t afford to move anywhere better. I saw the Welsh Government trying to improve housing and felt hopeful. But in closely following the Housing Bill, I was annoyed to find the majority of interests speaking out and lobbying were landlords and not renters. I established Let Down as a way for renters in the private sector to fill in this crucial cap in representation.
I’ve run this with lots of advice from kind friends and helpful people working in the housing sector. But it’s been driven ahead by me keeping an eye on legislation and finding opportunities in the Housing Bill, Renting Homes Bill and Letting Fees Bill for our side to be heard. Renters that have signed petitions, sent us reviews and filled in surveys have made the campaign what it is, but it’s been a lot of work to keep following all developments as my time and capacity has shrunk. I wish I could keep doing it, but I know I don’t have the time to do it properly, when there’s lots of amazing campaigns that have sprung up in the mean time that show different ways we can fight for better.
So after a successful few years, and with renters in a better position that before, this will be it from Let Down. Thank you everyone that’s helped me out. You know who you are and I’m sure you’ll keep up the good work in your various other guises. A big thank you especially to Generation Rent who has always supported us in whatever way they can. Thank you to the AMs that listened to us and the committees that gave us a platform. Thank you to all the other campaigns that have promoted our work, worked with us on lobbying and together made us stronger as we called for renters’ lives to be improved.
In the last few years in Wales, landlords have been licensed and renters’ contracts simplified. The Welsh Government is about to ban letting agency fees, coming into force on 1st September. With compulsory licensing and an incentive to provide a good service, not just a high turnover of renters, hopefully, some of the worst letting agencies won’t exist anymore. We have been heard, but there’s much more to do. The Welsh Government is now working on ending section 21 and there are still final regulations to be enacted on improving housing quality and defining what charges landlords will still be able to put on renters.
I’ve spoken to other campaigners about wrapping this up and was instead encouraged to develop it further and set up a Renters Union. I’d love to and it’s a brilliant idea, but after researching it for a couple of months, I’ve realised how much work it would be and how vital it is to get it right and to have a good core of people behind it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or capacity to take a lead on it but I know there are many others out there that could and hopefully we’ve planted a seed of an idea for other campaigners. I’m sorry that I can’t take it forward and if I’ve gotten anyone’s hopes up, but there are better placed people and organisations out there to help you if you want to take it forward.
For anyone who is interested in pursuing a renters union, I’ve been in touch with Acorn. They’re amazing; a campaigning group that started off in Bristol as a local renters union, but have set up many more local branches across the UK. They have one in Aberystwyth and would be delighted to set one up in Cardiff. I think a Wales-wide renters union would be ideal, but it’d also be smart to start small so local campaigns can grow at a manageable rate before joining together for potential Wales-wide campaigns. If you want to set one up in any area in Wales, email firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re experienced, knowledgeable and enthusiastic to help others.
Anyway, so that’s the campaign signing off for now. I’ll keep the website up for the time being as it’s could be a useful resource for anyone starting up any other campaigning. If you want me to promote anything on Twitter, we have a merry band of renters following us that we can send your way. Drop me a Direct Message on @letdownwales.
Best of luck renters! Hopefully we don’t need to shout that we’re let down anymore. But we must keep speaking up.