By Toby Porter
Fearful tenants have staged a protest demanding they not be evicted for any failure to pay their rent during lockdown.
A protest was held on Saturday [April 10] by renters in Southwark and Lambeth, calling for property company Uncle to promise no evictions for tenants who’ve got behind on rent payments during the pandemic.
Part of the global Realstar Group, Uncle rent out more than 300 flats in Stockwell, Elephant & Castle and New Cross.
The demonstration, organised by Momentum, with support from the London Renters Union, was part of a national day of protests aimed at property owners who collectively rent out vast swathes of the country’s rental properties.
Uncle is part of the Canada-based Realstar Group, a property giant with over £5bn in assets under management.
Led by chief executive Ryan Prince, Uncle’s website suggests that they take a kinder approach to their tenants than other landlords. A statement by Prince, for example, states: “We want to take the ‘lord’ attitude out of the word ‘landlord’.”
But so far, they haven’t offered to show any care to tenants facing hardship due to the pandemic. The protest was held after SLER received no reply to a letter sent to Uncle calling for them to sign a pledge promising no Covid evictions, and to forgive rent debt built up by tenants during the pandemic.
The eviction ban is currently due to be lifted at the end of May, at which point many predict there could be a wave of evictions for rent debts built up during the pandemic. In some cases, evictions have already started, due to a loophole added by the government to the latest extension to the ban. This means that landlords can start eviction proceedings against households with six months of rent arrears.
A spokesperson from SLER said: “Landlords like Uncle have built lucrative property empires from years of charging inflated rents. We’re facing a Covid rent debt crisis that’s been exacerbated by high rent prices, and it’s not fair that ordinary tenants could be made to pay the price. Uncle say they’re different to other landlords – we urge them to show it’s true, and promise that they won’t make anyone homeless during the pandemic.”
A spokesman for Uncle said: “We are committed to changing the rental landscape and take pride in the relationships we have with our residents. As part of that commitment, we strictly adhere to all government rules and guidelines regarding security of tenure.”
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