Around twenty five local residents attended the launch of the Hastings Tenants Union last week.
The event, held on Wednesday February 25,at the Southwater Community Centre, St Leonards on Sea, was chaired by founder member Neil O’Warne and Community Organiser Sam Kinch.
Mr O’Warne said the Hastings Tenant Union (HTU) aims to help tenants solve some of the issues faced by the large rented housing sector and gaving his reasons for heading up the HTU he said: “There’s probably not a single person in Hastings who doesn’t have a story to tell - damp, leaks, and dodgy landlords.”
Mr O’Warne said that the research they had carried out showed that in some local areas around 75 per cent of properties were rented out, whereas the national average is 36 per cent, adding: “Hastings as a whole has 44 per cent and in central St Leonards 75 per cent is rented.
“Council surveys have found that 50 per cent of private rented homes do not meet basic standards, and a survey has shown that 15 per cent don’t have a contract and of those who do, many contracts are rubbish.”
Mr O’Warne said many tenants complain of excessive letting agent fees with one agent in Hastings charging £300 to change a contract, adding: “There is £7.5 million in rent collected from us (in this area) every month, that’s £90 million per annum that goes from our pockets into landlords’ bank accounts.
“The landlords of this town live in places like Eastbourne and nice cottages and villages in St Albans, Bournemouth, London, Wales, and all these places we are effectively paying for. That’s £255,000 in rent leaving town every day and not staying in Hastings - its one of the biggest dynamics in Hastings.
Mr O’Warne said plans for the HTU future is to include protection from dodgy landlords, to have proper, secure affordable long-term tenancies, rent control and, as in Scotland where each property is licensed, Hastings Borough Council is bringing in licensing for private landlords.
Daniel Hanlon of local landlords Roost, which has 400 properties on their books, says a Tenants Union is a good idea but disagrees that vast sums of money leave the town. He said: “Tenants need a voice to root out the bad landlords. All our tenants have a Tenancy Agreement and anyone who knows anything about rental knows that around 70 per cent of rent goes towards paying a mortgage - not every rented property is mortgage free, plus there’s insurance, and maintenance which gives work to local people. “The vast majority of landlords I know all live locally.”
The next HTU meeting is on March 11, Southwater Community Centre, 7.30pm.