David Renton

David Renton is a housing barrister. His book Jobs and Homes is published in April 2021.

From The Blog
1 April 2021

In May 2020, one of my clients asked the local authority – her landlord – when essential maintenance work would start at her home. Damp and mould had made her daughter’s bedroom uninhabitable. ‘It seems to us that you have not given a moment’s attention to present realities,’ the landlord responded. ‘Staff are low in numbers across many of the council’s departments due to personnel self-isolating.’ I told her not to be disheartened, everything was slower in the lockdown. The works would be delayed but they would happen. I was less sanguine when I saw the same excuse being given in letters written in August and September, when even bowling alleys and casinos were open.

Becoming homeless is easily done

David Renton, 7 May 2020

Government support for tenants has been partial and grudging. No minister has suggested that tenants should be granted rent holidays, or that any delay in paying rent during the lockdown should be ignored when payments are due after it ends: tenants may be expected to pay all arrears at once. Still less has there been any proposal to take regulatory action against landlords who use Covid-19 as an excuse to make tenants homeless. Instead the government has published non-statutory guidance inviting landlords to offer ‘support and understanding’ to struggling tenants. One chambers, which principally represents landlords, wrote to its clients last month to say that the government’s proposals at that point did ‘not of themselves prevent evictions . . . Notices served pre-the Act coming into force can be used to start possession proceedings.’ Eventually, after criticism in the press and Parliament, the government grudgingly conceded a three-month stay on possession proceedings from 27 March.

In May​ 1976, two families of Asian immigrants from Malawi – UK passport-holders – were put up in a hotel while social workers decided what to do with their children. The Sun ran it as a front page story: ‘Scandal of £600 a week Asians’. The Mirror followed up by condemning a ‘New Flood of Asians into Britain’. The Express warned that 145,000 further...

The Killing of Blair Peach

David Renton, 22 May 2014

‘As a campaign meeting, it must have been one of the biggest yet, a hundred National Front supporters, three and a half thousand police and thousands of Asian demonstrators.’ This was the way News at Ten began its report of the clashes in Southall on 23 April 1979, midway through the general election campaign that would end with the victory of Margaret Thatcher. The report contained footage of police officers arresting middle-aged men in turbans, women sitting down in the road and demonstrators with their heads swaddled in bandages.

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