Oxford City Council is calling on tenants to make their voices heard and join a new tenants’ forum representing the interests of renters in Oxford.
Some private landlords and agents still discriminate against potential tenants on benefits – a practice referred to as ‘DSS discrimination’ – even though this is unlawful.
Last year councillors passed a cross-party motion calling for an end to DSS discrimination in Oxford and establishing a permanent tenants’ forum. This forum will act in an advisory capacity to the Housing and Homelessness Panel and whenever significant issues affecting tenants come before councillors.
The tenants’ forum is open to renters in all tenures. Its impact is likely to be biggest in the private rented sector, which now makes up nearly half (49%) of all homes in Oxford. DSS discrimination is far from the only issue facing private tenants.
Oxford is among the least affordable places for housing in the country, with private rents nearly double that for England as a whole. The end of pandemic support measures, reported record rent increases in a post-lockdown rental market and the general cost of living crisis mean that financial pressures on private renters only look set to grow.
Though rents are high and rising, the condition of privately rented homes is often poor. In 2020, an independent review of housing conditions by Metastreet found that a fifth (6,200) of the 30,500 homes in Oxford’s private rented sector could have a serious housing hazard.
While the council has approved two licensing schemes aimed at improving conditions and driving up standards, licensing currently only applies to shared housing. The government is now considering whether to confirm a ‘selective licensing’ scheme meaning that all privately rented homes in Oxford will need to be licensed.
Take part - join the tenants’ forum
The tenants’ forum aims to help the council to work to protect tenants’ rights and ensure that every Oxford tenant can live in safety and security. Renters interested in joining the tenants’ forum should email firstname.lastname@example.org or register their interest through this Google Form.
“Too many tenants in Oxford get a bad deal – high rents for low standards. No one should have to live with health hazards or be threatened with eviction. Oxford City Council is committed to improving standards. Renters can help shape what we do by joining the tenants’ forum.”
Councillor Imogen Thomas, private sector tenants’ champion