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Renters close down Savills in protest at ‘daylight robbery’ fees

Ever since the Tories proposed banning letting agent fees, agents like Savills and the Association of Registered Letting Agents have been pouring time and money into making sure the ban never sees the light of day.

Along with other companies, high-end letting Savills co-signed an open letter to government worrying that the consultation was becoming a ‘political issue’ and requesting its suspension until some undetermined point after the General Election (a week after? a year? five?).

We’ve been out in Hackney asking other people what they think about letting agent fees.  Unsurprisingly, literally everyone we’ve spoken to has been wildly in favour of banning them! So we decided to show Savills and other that if they want to de-rail the ban on fees, they’re going to have a fight on their hands.

On Friday we took a rare jaunt out of Hackney to the Savills headquarters in central London. After meeting outside Hackney Town Hall and unveiling our beautiful new banners, we changed into clothes that we thought would seem appropriate in the offices of one of the largest publicly traded Real Estate firms in the UK. Then we hopped on the 55 bus down to Oxford Circus!

Arriving

Our plan was to show Savills that if they intended to continue to take advantage of the housing crisis to burglarise us of our income, then we would burglarise them of their offices. How else could we get them to wake up to the suffering that that fees lead to than by holding their headquarters ransom over their busy lunchtime period?

Letting agents fees have gone up 60% in the last five years and there’s not limit on what agents can charge. Average fees in London are around £300, but they vary wildly, from £50 to £2,000 for the same services.

As we arrived, switched on our megaphone and began hearing from renters who’d been robbed by letting agent fees, it seemed the Savills letting agents were unwilling to speak to us.

Savills charge their tenants a set-up fee of £285, while all Digs wanted in the first instance was a conversation. But Savills employees refused this modest request, running away from Digs members or milling around crestfallen on the other side of the road. One group of employees who’d already slipped out for their lunch stood watching the protest, drinking expensive coffee and sneering.
Digs_protest_Savills_2_620
One letting agent shouted;
“Get a job!”, to which the protester Emma, armed with the megaphone retorted;
“I have a job! And I have to spend all my wages on rip-off rents and fees so people like you can get rich.”

Another Savills employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, was more conflicted. After spending ten minutes trying to defend letting agents fees as “good value for money”, he eventually admitted;
“You can’t really defend it, I suppose. If I’m honest, I can understand why people are angry.”

Meanwhile a good number of people were stopping to see what was going on and local couriers and goods delivery people honked their horns. We asked the public about what they thought about fees, collected their horror stories about daylight robbery, or improvised songs on the theme of how to deal with rip-off letting agents. One lady stopped by to tell us that the problem was neoliberalism.

A crowd gathered in the street to hear Digs members recount their experiences of being forced out of London or made to move at short notice with their young children. A few smart-suited business people stormed by with their heads down and wouldn’t make eye contact, but most people coming and going seemed to think that the agency fee ban was well overdue. Lots of people said how glad they were to see renters taking things into their own hands.Sam

At one point the former Channel 4 Economics Editor Paul Mason stopped by to take a few pictures.
Eventually we managed to find one Savills employee who admitted that he was a private renter and had had to pay letting agent fees. Did he think it was worth it…?

Nope!

On the 2nd June, the government consultation over whether letting agent fees should be banned will close. Our friends at Generation Rent have made this quick online from so you can really easily feed in your thoughts. Click here to make your voice heard.

Letting-agent fees are just the tip of the iceberg of housing injustice. But we won’t let that get us down. Private renters are getting organised across London and there all kinds of plans afoot for us to turn the tide.

So come and help us to put them into practice by coming to our next meeting, 7-9 p.m. on Monday, 29 May, at the Kingshold Community Centre, Ainsworth Road, e9 7LP!

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