A month ago, a "rent strike" may have seemed extreme. But in times of crisis, people across the globe are seeking solutionsby Tola Onanuga / March 25, 2020 / Leave a comment
As the escalating coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos and instability around the world, tenants in dozens of countries have been left in extremely vulnerable situations. Many who have become ill, lost their jobs or are caring for relatives are desperately worried about how they will pay their rent. As a result, a growing band of global activists have proposed to collectively withhold rent from landlords—which is also known as a “rent strike.”
In the UK, it’s perhaps too early to say whether mass rent strikes will occur because most tenants are still waiting for the government to confirm its legal stance on evictions during the pandemic. Ministers initially claimed new legislation would ensure no tenants were evicted throughout the crisis. On Tuesday, however, Labour accused Boris Johnson of betraying renters because the bill apparently only extended the eviction notice period that landlords have to give tenants from two months to three months.
The i Paper quoted a government spokesperson responding to the criticism, saying: “We have made a clear commitment to renters, and the claim that we are rowing back on it is absolute nonsense.”
Still, some tenants may feel compelled to join strike action in order to protect themselves. Dr Alex Baker, postdoctoral researcher in Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield, said rent strikes are not a decision taken lightly but are sometimes used by tenants facing mass eviction. “The government’s current proposal for a three-month suspension of evictions, does not do enough to help renters who lose income because of the pandemic and lockdown. The legislation looks like it only extends the notice period for evictions, meaning people may still face eviction, just later.”
“With the lockdown in place, reports of large waiting lists for universal credit and housing payments, and people laid off or facing loss of income, it’s possible many people will default on their rent in the coming months, leading to a major and chaotic rent crisis. Renters unions are often the next step for tenants if they can’t access support and feel their concerns are not being listened to through normal lobbying channels.”
Other countries around the world are grappling with similar issues…