Lawyers aside: Harrow Law Centre expands its approach to community justice

Thursday, July 28th 2022

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The UK’s cost-of-living crisis is driven in no small part by a housing crisis. Millions of households are unable to buy their home; instead, they are forced to live in overpriced rented properties that are in poor condition. Because many local people are not able to access legal advice on housing when they need it, Harrow Law Centre has taken other steps to help them.

The Law Centre is putting new efforts into engaging with local residents. It wants to understand the issues that matter to them about their housing situation, and to help them take action together. It also wants to help them understand their rights, so they can recognise more easily when things go wrong, and know where to go for help.

Jackson Caines is a housing campaigner and community organiser at Harrow Law Centre in north-west London.  He has been bringing together Harrow residents to solve their housing problems. In February this year, he helped set up  Trident Point Action Group, which helps local housing association tenants to challenge poor conditions in their housing block.

For people renting their homes from private landlords, Harrow Law Centre held a ’Know Your Rights’ workshop on 26 May at Harrow Baptist Church. In the session, they were told about the recent Trident Point campaign, had their rights explained to them, and discussed how to work together for better conditions.

In the workshop, people raised serious concerns:

  1. Rents are too high and Local Housing Allowance does not fully cover the rent
  2. There is a lack of affordable housing Renters are made to wait a long time for repairs to be completed
  3. Local authorities do not do enough to enforce the law in housing
  4. Moving more public services online is leaving behind people who cannot access them without help
  5. Renters are facing more anti-social behaviour from people in nearby homes

Reflecting on his work, Jackson Caines said:

“We are providing information to Harrow tenants so they cannot be easily exploited by bad landlords. We are also calling on the council to employ additional enforcement officers to make sure landlords are fulfilling their obligations. In the long term, we want to use this kind of community outreach to build a powerful campaign for better standards in the private rented sector”

Pamela Fitzpatrick, Director of Harrow Law Centre said:

“Harrow Law Centre has been assisting residents dealing with bad landlords in Harrow for over a decade. The living conditions for some tenants are shocking, yet tenants are paying extortionate rents and often face eviction if they complain about disrepair. Current housing law provides little security of tenure, and tenants often face a revolving door of homelessness each year. This has a terrible impact on the physical and mental health of tenants and also the education of young people. It cannot continue.”

Follow Harrow Law Centre on Twitter for information on upcoming renters’ rights sessions.

The Law Centres Network is part of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, an alliance of 20 leading organisations who represent private renters. We are united in our mission to reform the private rented sector so that everyone who relies on it for their home can prosper.

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