08 Sep 2016

Housing and Planning

Council endorse Ethical Lettings Charter at Big Housing Conversation

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has officially endorsed a scheme to help improve private accommodation in the city.

At last night’s Big Housing Conversation, the Mayor confirmed the council has endorsed ACORN’s Ethical Lettings Charter and that the Council has adopted it for its own homes.

The charter aims to improve the management and standards of all rented homes in the city, especially those owned by private landlords.

It calls for lower costs and fees for renters, more secure tenancies, safer, healthier homes, and a more professional property market.

Residential letting and managing agents or landlords can sign up to ACORN’s Charter and pledge that they will meet one of the three levels set out in the scheme – bronze, silver or gold.

Mayor Marvin Rees said: “I made a commitment before being elected to give tenants in Bristol a strong voice, and the Big Housing Conversation was the first step towards making that happen.

“Working closely with ACORN and other organisations, we want to make sure that tenants are involved in the important conversations that need to be had about housing in the city.

“By endorsing the Ethical Lettings Charter we are sending a clear message to landlords in the city that poor accommodation and conditions will not be tolerated. And we are continuing to work with ACORN to establish a single standard for all rented homes across the city, bringing together the ACORN scheme and the Council’s own enforcement and advisory standards into a common approach. This will benefit current and future tenants giving them confidence that the landlord they rent from is the best they can be.

“As we strive to create equality across the city, one of our priorities is to make sure that everyone has a safe and secure roof over their head. The standards set out by ACORN in this charter, will help us to achieve these goals.

“It was very enlightening to hear from tenants, and I hope their experiences can help influence our policy moving forward.”

The Big Housing Conversation brought together tenants from across the city to have their say on Bristol’s housing issues.

The council teamed up with ACORN to host what they hope will be the first of many tenant focussed events.

Table discussions, led by members of ACORN, representatives from housing associations and council tenants, included; homelessness, Welfare Reform, how to obtain more social housing, housing conditions and rights for private tenants and tenancy support.

Nick Ballard, ACORN organiser, said: “Clear, enforceable standards that provide security, decency and value for money are desperately needed in Bristol's private rental sector.

“For two and half years the ACORN community union has been working to raise the expectations of private tenants and develop an organisation that will empower and represent them. The Ethical Lettings Charter is the product of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of Bristolian tenants and ACORN members.

“The Ethical Lettings scheme will reward and publicise good practice while exposing the bad. The endorsement of the Charter by Bristol City Council is a great step forward in the fight for decent living conditions and in the creation of a progressive private rental sector in our city. We look forward to developing it further.

“Mayor Marvin Rees has made addressing Bristol's housing crisis his number one priority. A forum for those most affected to put forward solutions and articulate the issues as we see them is an indispensable part of this. 

“The Big Housing Conversation is not the end but rather the beginning of the democratisation of housing policy and the involvement of the community in making sure our needs are met.” 

Bristol City Council pledged to support the charter back in October last year once a few improvements have been made to make it legally watertight.

ACORN member Tom Renhard said: “As a proud and longstanding member of ACORN Bristol, I welcome the endorsement and adoption of the Ethical Lettings Charter by Bristol City Council, including for its own tenants.

“We are looking forward to working with the Mayor, the Cabinet lead for homes, and other key individuals from the council to ensure this is not a document that becomes forgotten on a dusty shelf.

“We believe this practical and community-led initiative will have a far-reaching and positive impact for tenants across the city, providing a leading example that can be a beacon for how other cities can work in partnership with the community to establish better support for tenant’s rights.”