Local campaigners organised by the Labour party pressure group Momentum protested outside the Westminster offices of a major corporate landlord yesterday (10 April).
They were demanding that Uncle, owned by the Canada-based Realstar Group which has assets worth more than £5 billion, sign a pledge not to evict tenants during the epidemic.
Uncle, which has 300 flats in Southwark and Lambeth, at Elephant & Castle and Stockwell, has not replied to a letter calling on it to sign this pledge and to forgive rent debt built up by its tenants during the pandemic.
Local renters group Southwark-Lambeth Eviction Resistance (SLER) said landlords like Uncle have built property empires on years of high rents, “so it’s not fair that ordinary renters should pay the cost of a Covid rent debt crisis”.
The demonstration was part of a national day of protests aimed at property owners that between them control a large proportion of UK rental properties. It was Organised by Momentum with support from the London Renters Union.
Uncle, led by CEO Ryan Prince, is part of a growing trend for very large, often multinational, companies to “build for rent”. Its Elephant property is 45 storeys high.
While nearly half (48%) of UK landlords own only one property, half of all private sector tenancies are let by the 17% of landlords that have five or more properties.
Uncle makes much of its interior designers and on-site managers as well as what it says is a more flexible approach to renting with fewer high upfront fees
The rent protesters noted that Prince has said Uncle “want to take the ‘lord’ attitude out of the word ‘landlord’.”
However, the protesters say, Uncle has not offered to show any care to tenants facing hardship due to the pandemic.
They said that, according to research by the National Residential Landlords Association, more than 800,000 households are in rent arrears during the pandemic.
A recent report by the Labour party found that 190,000 renters are at risk of unemployment, adding to a growing Covid rent debt crisis.
The eviction ban is currently due to be lifted at the end of May, at which point, the protesters said, many predict there could be a wave of evictions for rent debts built up during the pandemic.
A loophole added by the government to the latest extension to the ban means that landlords can already start eviction proceedings against households with six months of rent arrears.
An SLER spokesperson from said: “Landlords like Uncle have built lucrative property empires from years of charging inflated rents.
“We’re facing a Covid rent debt crisis that’s been exacerbated by high rent prices, and it’s not fair that ordinary tenants could be made to pay the price.
“Uncle say they’re different to other landlords – we urge them to show it’s true, and promise that they won’t make anyone homeless during the pandemic.”