More than 2,500 households have agreed not to pay rent thanks to a campaign, launched by the London Renters Union (LRU), which encourages people to withhold payments to landlords amid the Coronavirus crisis.
The activists are calling on tenants to withhold their payments to landlords, in an attempt to generalise a growing rent strike movement.
The LRU is demanding that the government suspends rent for the duration of the crisis, cancels rent debt, and makes the eviction ban permanent.
Those who have signed up to the campaign online are attending action meetings where they are sharing skills and information about how to tell their landlord that they will be withholding rent, how to demand landlords write off rent debt, including providing them with the LRU’s template letter, which has helped dozens of renters gain a rent reduction, and how to resist evictions.
Renters are also being informed about the risks of withholding rent and their legal rights as a renter.
Zara, an LRU organiser from East Ham who facilitates parenting courses for a local authority, said: “Because of lockdown, this month I’ve earned less than half of what I normally do, so it’s been impossible to pay the rent. We’re not eligible for furloughing, self-employment support or Universal Credit. Our landlord already wanted to evict us, and now he’s trying to get us declared bankrupt.
“I don’t want my children to be worried that they might lose their home. I want to protect them from this.
“So now we’re going to use the LRU’s letter to tell our landlord that we can’t pay the rent. I’m talking to others, asking them to get involved and refuse to pay rent, so they can buy food, medicine and things like that.
“We’re sharing skills in how to refuse to pay rent, and how to stop ourselves being evicted. Thousands of people have already joined our movement - and now we are being heard. It’s really giving me hope.
“But right now, the government is prioritizing landlords’ profits over renters’ survival. It must suspend rent, cancel rent debt and make the eviction ban permanent. Otherwise we’re headed for a chaotic rent debt and eviction crisis.”