A West Country lettings agency is under fire for urging landlords to increase rents - and even the head of its sister agencies says he opposes the move.
The Southville branch office of CJ Hole has written to landlords asking: 'Are you getting enough rent?'. It says it's 'highly likely' that a rent increase is due, and offers to manage the whole process for landlords.
The letter has caused outrage amongst renters, and a petition calling on the agency to stop encouraging 'excessive and unjustified' rent increases has gathered over 11,500 signatures.
The organisers say that Bristol's housing supply has been described by an official report as 'in crisis', and that just 60 affordable homes were built across Bristol in 2013. Research by Knight Frank Residential Research last year showed that rents were rising in the city by 3.1% a year, faster than in most parts of London.
"The letter shows how some estate agents and landlords are seeking to cynically profit from the housing crisis in Bristol at a time when inflation has declined to 0.3% and deflation is predicted," says the petition's creator, Nathan Williams.
The organisers plan a demonstration outside CJ Hole's Southville branch on Saturday.
And even Chris Hill, managing director of five other branches of CJ Hole, has spoken out against the letter on Twitter.
"No office under my control sends these nor will ever. Paul Goverd is the man who runs and controls Southville office," he says.
"I agree [with the petition] and have signed, my offices believe in good service as reason to use us, shame Southville have chosen this route."
But the Southville branch has defended its actions, claiming that higher rents encourage owners to let out more properties.
"Our approach to landlords was to ensure that appropriate fair and free-market rents were in operation," a spokesperson told This Is Money.
"Artificially low rents will not encourage new rental properties to come forward or for investment to be made into existing assets, thereby harming the overall rental market in the locality. This benefits no-one in the longer term."
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