There were times in the 1980s and 90s when an estate agency might need bouncers to cope with the crush of buyers desperate to buy. Now one estate agency in Brixton, south London, has had to employ bouncers for another reason entirely. It was in response to a local demonstration about rising rents and estate agent fees - which protestors claim threatens to price out the locals.
So why are they so concerned?
ProtestThe estate agency in question is Foxtons, which opened in Brixton in March. Its reputation as a higher-end estate agency immediately worried some protesters - who daubed graffiti on the estate agent's windows, saying 'Yuppies Out'. It seems they objected to the estate agency's reputation for attracting yuppies, with their fleet of branded minis and cafe-style agencies.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, last Saturday a group of demonstrators visited three estate agencies in the area: Foxtons, Eden Harper and Haart, to ask questions about the cost of rental properties, and the fees the agents charge. It was part of a protest across London about rental costs.
Who is right?Both sides of this particular argument are understandable. The estate agents offer a service, connecting landlords with tenants, ensuring that both parties stick to their sides of the agreement, and often managing the property. They are a commercial business responding to customer needs: if there are people who are prepared to pay the rents and fees, then why shouldn't they charge them?
On the other hand, rental prices in Brixton have gone through the roof. According to Shelter, prices in the Borough of Lambeth have risen 9.8% in the last year - which makes it the third-fastest growing part of London. If you want to rent a 2-bedroom flat you can expect prices to start at £1,200 a month. For a three-bedroom property, you can easily pay £2,000 a month.
It means that at the end of the tenancy, there's often a rate increase, and people who have been in the area for decades are finding they can no longer afford to rent in Brixton. Their places are being taken by higher-paid newcomers to the market - which campaigners argue will change the nature of the area.
In addition, Shelter has pointed out that a lack of rights for tenants can mean an insecure lifestyle for children. They highlight that short rents and instability of rental costs means that tenants move far more often than those in their own homes. One in ten renting families have had to change their children's school and one in eight says a move has been upsetting for their children.
So what do you think? Is this the housing market just working as it has always done? Will the residents of Brixton have to accept that when lots of people want to live there, the rental costs will increase, or should something be done to protect renters? Let us know in the comments.
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