Lewisham Council is working with tenants to launch a dedicated private renters’ union, understood to be the second of its kind in the UK after Southwark set one up during the pandemic.
It wants to give private tenants in the London borough a stronger voice to raise issues and help them access support and advice, and is working with tenants’ advocacy group Generation Rent to find out more about the issues they face by conducting a survey and holding focus groups.
Generation Rent director Alicia Kennedy(pictured) tells LandlordZONE it is organising events that explore private renters’ experience in Lewisham and how they feel they could have a stronger voice in the council.
“As part of this we will encourage participants to consider how they want to engage with Lewisham Council and all options that might improve tenants’ experiences, including support from and engagement with existing groups such as London Renters Union, ACORN and Citizens Advice,” she says.
“We will be sharing the findings of our conversations with private renters in Lewisham and their feedback with Lewisham Council to inform their future decisions.”
The concept has the approval of Shadow Justice Minister Ellie Reeves who flagged it up during a debate this week on housing standards.
She told the Commons: “The aim is to provide a link between renters and councils, help the local authority become better informed about the issues that private renters face and what it can do to support them, and help renters to become more knowledgeable about the council services available to them.”
Councillor Paul Bell, cabinet member for housing and planning, tells LandlordZONE that there is a lot of interest in having a group to represent private renters in the borough.
He adds: “The project is still at an early stage and its development will be led by private renters in the borough – our role is primarily to facilitate these conversations. We are actively looking for ways to involve groups like London Renters Union and ACORN in this project, recognising the experience and expertise they have in this area. Residents may want to get involved in one of these existing groups or establish a new model that meets their needs – we want private renters in Lewisham to decide what works best for them.”