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Five people could face eviction every day in Hackney amid recession and rising rents

A group of protesters demonstrate outside Hackney Town hall about housing prices. A group of protesters demonstrate outside Hackney Town hall about housing prices.

Friday, July 12, 2013
10:06 AM

Up to five people per day in Hackney could be facing eviction from their homes, according to a legal advice charity.

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Case Study: Rosie Walker

Rosie Walker, 35, is a research assistant at London School of Economics and has been badly hit by the rent increases in Hackney.

“When I moved in to a five-bedroom house in Gunton Road, Clapton, the monthly rent was £2,300. Within two months, the landlord asked us to pay an extra £400, an increase of nearly 20 per cent.

“He threatened us with eviction unless we agreed. The house was in poor condition and we negotiated a list of repairs in exchange for the increase in September 2011.

“The household repairs were left undone. When I asked him a year later to replace a broken chest of drawers, he replaced them and served us an eviction notice.

“I’ve rented since I was 18 and it’s getting harder to keep a roof over my head.”

Hackney Community Law Centre, in Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, say they are contacted by around 150 people every month – almost 2,000 a year – facing possession proceedings and eviction.

At the same time spiralling rents, up almost 15 per cent over the last 18 months – and high letting agent fees sparked a demonstration outside Hackney Town Hall, in Mare Street, on Saturday, led by recently formed campaign group Digs.

Val Thomas, a housing caseworker at the centre, said: “We have approximately 150 people per month getting in touch or being referred. This is a rough estimate of the number of anxious people seeking our services because they fear losing their homes.

“It’s a lot. At the same time all our services and legal aid are being cut. There are not many housing lawyers left either because of the cuts.”

At the weekend, dozens of people took part in Housing Crisis Monopoly, a piece of street theatre devised by Digs to highlight the barriers and pitfalls tenants encounter as they’re forced to go through letting agents to be housed.

Heather Kennedy, 29, of Hackney Downs, one of the lead organisers of the protest, described the day as a roaring success.

She said: “We’ve spoken to so many people today and the mood against greedy landlords and letting agents is really strong.

“People aren’t stupid – they know when they’re being ripped off, exploited and discriminated against. The problem is, until now we’ve suffered alone and in silence.

“To be a private tenant is often to feel powerless. But the tide is turning.

“Measures need to be brought in urgently to protect the 8.5million people living in England’s private rented sector.”

Nicola Calvert, 36, a radiotherapist, lived in Sigdon Road, Hackney Downs, until she claims she was forced out by a greedy landlord who increased her monthly rent from £460 to £625 overnight.

She said: “We decided the increase was ridiculous and couldn’t afford it.

“I think rent being pushed up is a huge problem in Hackney. It seems to have happened to a lot of my friends, and now one seems able to do anything to control it.”

The average monthly rent of a studio has increased by 14 per cent from £788 to £898 in 18 months, according to statistics from the Valuation Office Agency, despite the fact that interest rates are among the lowest they have ever been.

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