The Struggle Continues



At the centre of Spence's politics was his opposition to landlordism and advocacy for a society in which people were not forced to hand over their hard-won earnings to people who produce no value but simply own property.


His solution was to have the land held in common and to abolish landlords and rent. Today, the exploitation of working people by landlords bares comparison with Spence's day. On this page we collect sources and testimony of this problem and provide various links and solutions. Spence saw the only solution in revolution. However, even basic steps - such as having fair rent and fair conditions legislation and subjecting the renting classes to same level of scutiny they apply to their victims - would be a great help. In many cities it has become impossible for what Spence would call the 'labouring poor' - and today we might add,  the 'labouring middle class' - to have a fair shake.




Landlords are social parasites. They’re the last people we should be honouring

This article is more than 5 years old
 (The Guardian)
Rhik Samadder


The ‘landlord of the year’ is being announced but most buy-to-let opportunists make their tenants’ lives hell – giving them a prize is like giving Stalin a humanitarian awar



When they do make the news, you already know the story. Tory landlords dragging their absentee, ancient arses into parliament solely to vote down a bill that says rented properties should be “fit for human habitation”. 


“Lockdown” landlords bleeding councils dry, installing vulnerable people in micro-units, with inadequate fire provisions, so they can soak up treble the housing benefit. Who can forget the competition in the Daily Mail that offered up a buy-to-let property as top prize? This, from a paper that crucifies scroungers. Scroungers being people who live off others, and shirk their responsibilities. But back to landlords, eh?


Landlord of the year. Lol! Rofbhawuild! (Rolling on the floor, banging my head against the wall until I lose my deposit.) Who is it going to be? One who lets you have a pet? Some of my friends are landlords, and I’m sorry to say it, but they are going straight to hell too. Imagine how satisfyingly overcrowded the underworld must be with landlords; partitioning the seventh circle into seven more circles, charging each other extra for underfloor heating. The best thing you can say about them is that they are better than letting agents. But that’s like giving Stalin a humanitarian award for massacring fewer people than Genghis Khan. The fact is, they’re all rogue. Whether your landlord is a genial profiteer or an actual psychopath is the luck of the draw. Anyone can be one, if they have made enough money or inherited property, and those are two of the worst qualifications imaginable. Like anyone who thrives off the housing crisis, they are social parasites.


I wonder what is meant by a “good” private landlord, worthy of recognition. Someone who charges below insane market rates, purely by choice? Who pays for top-quality repairs, when they could get a mate to do a botched job on the cheap? Who offers long-term secure tenancies, despite the fact there is no legal minimum? Who refrains from revenge evictions? Who isn’t Fergus Wilson? Someone who displays basic human decency, in an unregulated sector that encourages its opposite? Who acts, in other words, not like a landlord at all?

If you are an oldster with a lodger, I’m sure you’re fine. But it’s the buy-to-let vampires, monopolising new builds, setting social inequality in stone, who define the term today. Try to understand these characters, so money-driven that they view people’s need to sleep indoors as the chance to turn a tidy profit. (Having said that, the main cause of homelessness in the UK is, by a long way, the termination of short-term tenancies, so maybe they’re not that committed to it.) No pets, no posters, no parties. That’s their mantra. No repairs. Don’t wear down the crap carpet. Just sit on a damp mattress and cough up the cash. All so they can keep expanding, squatting over lives like feudal incubi. If you’re one of these people, you can shove your property portfolio up your arse. And make sure you leave room for your award.

The notion of houses as investment opportunities of any sort has been a cancer. Here’s a radical idea: buy a home if you can, then live in it, and do something else with your time. Something that isn’t about exploiting the less privileged. Apologies for taking a Daily Mail-sounding stance on this, but landlords: get a proper job


Abolish Landlords

  •                           Jamie Medwell (Tribune)

A century ago, socialists demanded that housing should serve public need rather than private profit – that aspiration remains as relevant today, but it can only be realised under one condition: abolishing landlords


Guaranteed shelter, afforded to hundreds of thousands of renters by the Covid-19 eviction ban, has now come to an end. In its wake comes a rising tide of eviction and homelessness. If a recent string of interviews exposing the derangement of the rentier class is anything to go by, it’s a moment over which landlords have been salivating: over the past two weeks, they have gleefully issued 400,000 tenants with eviction notices.

With a government impervious to the most milquetoast calls for renter protection, some have looked to the Labour Party. They have been disappointed. On 14 May 2020, with the first deadline for the government’s eviction ban looming, Labour’s former Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire called a ‘cancel the rent’ policy for people whose income had been slashed by the pandemic ‘un-Labour’ and ‘really regressive’.

‘Whether it’s moral or not,’ she said, ‘There is a legal structure underneath this. A tenant has signed a contract with a landlord. Even if it’s a rubbish contract, it’s still legally binding. There is no such thing as cancelling it.’

A cursory history lesson would have taught her she was, at best, one for two. She’s right that Labour’s radical renting history is now behind it, but anti-landlordism was once a feature of the political mainstream.

Old Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan complained of landlords pocketing a 40 percent increase in controlled rents without ‘putting a penny piece into repairs’, a feeling that was carried down to Labour’s grassroots: in the 1940s, while a councillor in Birmingham, soon-to-be Labour MP Jim Simmons argued slum landlords should receive no compensation if their properties were compulsorily purchased, describing these homes as ‘diseased meat’.

Faced with a Tory plan to roll-back rent controls, Nye Bevan delivered an impassioned speech backing municipalisation, saying: ‘[the] private ownership of rental property… results in a progressive deterioration of an invaluable part of the social equipment.’ Even right-wing revisionist Labour MP Tony Crossland described landlordism as ‘an inappropriate form of home-ownership in an advanced society.’

The problem, like so many, started with Thatcherism. Before 1979, past Labour and Conservative governments—despite their differing emphasis on public or private provisions—had accepted that the government should have an interventionist role in housing, and the proportion of households living in the private rented sector when Thatcher came to power was below ten percent.

But the Thatcher administration stripped away rent controls, transferring more than 1.5 million publicly-owned homes into private hands through Right to Buy, and beginning a forty-year bacchanal of exploitation. 48 percent of under-35s now live in privately rented accommodation, and according to Generation Rent, a huge 14 percent of privately rented homes fail safety standards.

Against this backdrop, the media has manufactured consent by obscuring the class relationship between rentiers and working people and depicting landlords as tireless grafters, selflessly cleaning up after their feckless tenants. The hoarding of housing and the casual exploitation of renters for the maximum profit is now considered a very normal source of income: in fact, 110 of our elected MPs are landlords.

Some will feel that even Corbyn’s Labour fell short on this issue. While pledges to scrap no-fault evictions and introduce property MOTs for landlords are key to stopping the worst abuses of the landlord class, Thatcherite doctrine is so ingrained that the prospect of ending landlordism altogether is seen as unworkably radical for electoral politics.

That reality, in combination with Starmer’s depressing march back to the wasteland of the political centre, means any path to landlord abolitionism must diverge from the Labour Party. Conscious of this, a number of tenant unions have recently been growing in strength, looking to tackle the injustices ingrained in the private rental system through grassroots organising.

‘We want to help people build power bases in their communities,’ explains Jack Yates, activist and communications officer for the radical renters’ union ACORN. ‘They need to exist outside of parliamentary politics. That way, landlords can’t come into people’s homes and rip them apart whenever the political winds change.’

Those political winds are particularly subject to the influence of the powerful. According to Gordon Moloney, national committee member for Living Rent, political parties have seen concentrated influencing campaigns from landlords’ associations throughout the pandemic, which aimed to obscure the behaviour of the rentier class.

‘We’re fighting the battle against landlordism on two fronts,’ says Gordon. ‘Public opinion is very much on the side of tenants. But there is this other discussion happening behind closed doors. Landlords’ associations—and even charities—have bent over backwards to highlight to the few positive examples of landlords who behaved with empathy by issuing rent rebates or rent reductions, many of whom are now asking for that money back.

‘That’s given politicians a really warped view of landlords’ behaviour,’ Gordon continues. ‘They think they did what they could at a difficult time. We’re not having a bar of it, but because they won’t the conversation publicly—when they know they’ll lose—it’s very difficult to counter the narrative.’

Despite that challenge, Jack attributes the success of organisations like ACORN and Living Rent specifically to their position outside of parliamentary politics.

‘We’ve seen a rebirth of grassroots organising since the pandemic began, and unions like ours are leading the charge,’ he says. ‘You just have to look at what’s been achieved outside of Parliament this year. The Tories have pushed back the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill and they’re scrapping ‘no fault’ evictions. Those victories were won by people in the streets, not by MPs.’

Jack is right: if we are to break landlordism’s hold over our social psyche—to make the case that profiting off another’s basic need for shelter is wrong—then the battles will take place on the lines drawn by organisations like ACORN and Living Rent. But the anti-landlordism that once existed in electoral politics should not be forgotten. It’s a base we can and should build on to make it clear that a political system comprising and catering to landlords is a choice – not an inevitability.

Why should I let my landlord spy on my finances?


CLAER BARRETT (Financial Times)


Buy-to-let landlords are subjecting renters to new levels of financial scrutiny



Demanding online access to your bank accounts for 90 days to scrutinise your income and expenditure. Calling your boss to verify your salary. Asking for an accountant’s reference and copies of your tax returns. No, I’m not talking about the level of financial scrutiny people can expect when applying for a mortgage. These checks are becoming the norm for tenants trying to rent a property in the aftermath of the pandemic.


I have a challenge to throw down to the Open Banking providers. Please can you make an app that allows renters to check whether landlords have enough capital to finance unexpected repairs promptly? It would be handy if this could also show an “affordability indicator” of how much they’re relying on the rental income to fund their personal everyday expenditure. Sadly, I fear renters may face a long wait for this kind of innovation and the prospect of regulation is also slipping back. Last month, the government said the renters’ reform bill, which promised to tackle many of these problems, would be delayed until next year. When you consider how many MPs have portfolios of rental properties, I cannot help but wonder whether they really understand the plight of renters — or merely have an interest in preserving the status quo.


Landlordism is killing culture

Ellen Peirson-Hagger (New Statesman)

In 2014, when Rachael Flaszczak opened her grass-roots music venue the Snug, the landlord had rented the building to her without knowing what she planned to do with it. “He didn’t care,” Flaszczak said. “He just wanted the rent at the end of the month.” 

Flaszczak signed an initial three-year lease, investing her own money in renovating the building in Atherton, Greater Manchester, so that it was fit for use. She runs the 100-capacity venue – one of the few live music spots in the area – as a coffee shop in the daytime, turning the space into a gig room at weekends. That itself is a compromise. Flaszczak first fell in love with live music when she saw the Manchester indie rock band James – with support from Radiohead – in 1993. She started the Snug to support Manchester’s music scene and her local community, with income from the coffee shop supporting the venue’s live shows, as well as funding community groups for people experiencing homelessness, and locals trying to return to work. But the financial situation has been “difficult”, Flaszczak said. “We just get by each week.” 

Last year the Snug risked closure when Flaszczak learned that her landlord was looking to sell the property. She considered buying the building herself and looked into applying for a commercial mortgage, but the impact of Covid-19 on the venue’s accounts meant that wasn’t possible. Having seen numerous local commercial properties bought up and turned into flats – specifically into houses in multiple occupation, which are often more profitable for landlords – Flaszczak worried that her venue would go the same way. The future of the Snug now depended on the whims of its new landlord.


The profiteering of private landlords is clearly a major contributor to the housing crisis. Less discussed is the way in which rentier capitalism is killing the UK cultural scene. In music, more than 35 per cent of grass-roots music venues (small to-medium-sized venues that focus on showcasing new music) have closed in the last 20 years, according to data from the Music Venue Trust (MVT). Ninety-three per cent of those are tenants, with the typical operator having just 18 months left on its tenancy.


Links and contacts




Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions:

New York:


Canadian Centre for Housing Rights:

Claim the Future:

"Landlordism is an even greater scourge today than it was when Keir Hardie wrote in 1907, “Socialism proposes to abolish capitalism and landlordism”. Around 11 million people in 4.6 million households rent from a private landlord, paying far higher rents than those in council or social housing, and often making higher monthly payments than mortgage holders. We should not be neutral, and must increase the taxes on property and rental profits, and bring forward new regulations that contribute to curtailing and ending landlordism."








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