The power of the internet is transforming the legal system, as people-power fights back against extortionate rents and fees in London.
Cambridge law graduate Michael Green is the legal brain behind CaseHub, a legal company created to hold the powerful to account. He builds class action lawsuits against firms and institutions by galvanising online support.
This summer, the group is launching a campaign against letting agent practices, fueled by the experiences of London renters.
Michael believes the situation hits students and graduates the hardest, as they face unaffordable agent fees and surrender half of their earnings in order to pay off landlords’ mortgages and leave them with a hefty profit.
“It is too easy to feel bitter against the landlords and the agents with competing fees because people like us are losing out”, he said.
The online campaign follows the story of law student Charlotte, who describes the “horrific viewings and outrageous fees” she experienced in her search for accommodation after a year in university halls.
Class action cases such as this are focused on gathering a big community of people and so can take 1-2 years to progress.
But unlike faster online petitions, these group lawsuits go to court and can bring down large organisations in a battle for social justice.
Michael and his team are determined to take whatever steps are needed to get the case to court, where they will be able to prove what the laws are for letting agents. They hope to trigger a mass refund for the renters who have lost out.
Although CaseHub highlights students as those worst affected by letting fees, the firm wants to help everyone in London who is struggling to make ends meet and feels strongly enough to take action.
As the UCL rent strikes recently proved, taking on big business is a powerful thing. It offers hope for young people in the capital and a step in the right direction. But the fight won’t stop here.
“I’m no policy expert” says Michael, but there is one solution he sees great sense in – rent controls.
He believes that implementing such a policy could prevent landlords hiking up their rents and pocketing a large amount after accounting for their mortgage.
He said: “We are effectively paying off their mortgages and they have the privilege of profiting from this asset while we gave away half of our wages.
Should rents be controlled? Definitely, yes.”
With any major change, there are winners and losers. In this case, the losers will be the landlords, Michael explains. His team believe that to battle the city’s housing crisis, they must take them on.
To find out more about CaseHub’s battle against agent fees and support the cause, follow this link https://casehub.com/cases/letting-agent-fees.