On Tuesday, 21st March, South West London Law Centres (SWLLC) participated in the Renters Reform Coalition’s Renters’ Day of Action at Church House Westminster, London. The event aimed to bring attention to the critical issues faced by private renters in the UK. During the event, participants walked to parliament to meet with MPs and raise important questions and concerns.
A SWLLC representative raised concerns about the lack of legal aid and access to justice for private renters. The representative asked Shadow Housing Minister Matthew Pennycook MP if he would commit to reintroducing stronger legal aid that would cover more private renters and support more legal aid and government funding for the advice sector. The representative also highlighted the issue of people not having secure tenancies in temporary accommodation or some types of housing, which restricts their tenant rights.
In response, Pennycook acknowledged that the lack of legal aid and access to justice is a real problem that needs to be addressed and that he will take the concerns raised by SWLLC back to Parliament:
“It’s a live issue. I was a trustee of Greenwich Housing Rights for many years when I was a local councillor, and they’re facing funding cuts now. The pressures on local authorities lead to a real dearth of sources of support and advice. MPs should know this all day long, because it’s us and Citizens Advice centres that are now bearing the brunt of all those centres being closed. We cannot deal with the need. So, absolutely, I believe that the pressures on legal aid and access to justice must be addressed.”
The Renters’ Day of Action was an opportunity for organisations and individuals to come together and highlight the issues faced by private renters in the UK. The event included meetings with MPs, private renting advice workshops, and fringe events. The day ended with a closing event featuring Housing Minister Rachel Maclean MP Minister for Housing and Planning, who committed to abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions before Autumn.
The conversation on Section 21 evictions and temporary accommodations raises critical points about the importance of funding for legal advice centres and addressing the issue of the housing crisis. Legal aid and access to justice are fundamental to ensure that private renters are not left without support and advice. The closure of many advice centres only exacerbates this problem, making it harder for people to access the legal support they need.
SWLLC stands in solidarity with renters and organisations like the Renters Reform Coalition in fighting for safe, secure, and affordable private renting. Simultaneous to responses to the tenants movement, the government must take action to ensure that legal aid and access to justice are adequately funded and that advice centres remain open. We hope that this conversation will lead to further action to address issues faced by renters and the legal aid they must have access to along the way.