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TSB Bank forced to change buy-to-let mortgage policy after renters' furious sit-in protest

Acorn activists held demonstrations at 30 TSB branches on 18 May, warning that the bank’s default 12-month contract left tenants facing insecurity. Now TSB has extended contracts to three years

Renters from Acorn union occupied TSB branches to force a climbdown on buy-to-let mortgages

Renters from the Acorn union occupied TSB branches, like this one in Birmingham, all over the country. Image: Acorn

Renters have forced a high street bank to change landlords’ buy-to-let mortgage contracts to protect tenants after occupying branches in protest.

Activists from the Acorn community union flooded 30 TSB branches across the UK on 18 May, setting up tents inside branches and forcing some to close early for the day.

The renters were angry at the bank’s clause in their buy-to-let mortgage that stopped landlord customers from offering more than a 12-month contract to their tenants. Acorn argued that the clause leaves renters having to negotiate their living arrangements every year or face spending money to move home.

Following the protests, TSB has committed to changing the clause to allow up to three-year tenancies for new and existing mortgages in the coming weeks.

Alex Richardson, Acorn national board member said, “TSB’s decision is a brilliant victory for our union, won as always by the collective direct action of our members right across the country. Politicians need to ensure proper security for tenants – but in the meantime, we won’t wait around.”

Acorn said TSB’s 12 month clause is the shortest contract length specified in any buy-to-let mortgage terms from any large lenders.

Renters from Acorn union occupied TSB branches to force a climbdown on buy-to-let mortgages
Activists put tents up and laid out cardboard in Tottenham’s TSB branch to warn that tenants are at risk of homelessness. Image: Acorn

With private renters already at greater risk of homelessness and facing record-high rents, activists argued that the clause added to the insecurity they faced.

TSB agreed to meet representatives of Acorn following the protests and decided to change their rules after negotiations. Discussions are ongoing with Acorn to remove limits on the duration of contracts landlords can offer to tenants.

A TSB spokesperson told the Big Issue: “Our buy-to-let mortgage terms have always had the option to allow assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) up to 36 months in duration, provided they followed government’s model tenancy agreement template.

“However, following a review – we will now apply this option to all types of ASTs – regardless of format.”

Eleesha Taylor-Barrett, Acorn national board member said: “As a renter who’s moved five times in the last five years, I know first-hand the level of uncertainty these insecure tenancies can bring.

“That’s why Acorn will continue to fight for rental reforms, and we’ll be making sure the next government deliver the changes we desperately need.”

The rent reforms promised by the current government now won’t pass into law following Rishi Sunak’s announcement that the general election will take place on 4 July.

Big Issue is demanding an end to poverty this general election. Will you sign our open letter to party leaders?

The Renters Reform Bill was originally intended to remove fixed-term tenancies to offer renters more protection but that measure was weakened in a number of amendments as the bill faced accusations of being “watered down to appease landlords”.

Now it will be up to the next government to pick up the bill following the election after the government failed its 2019 Conservative manifesto promise to scrap no-fault evictions.

Renters from Acorn union occupied TSB branches to force a climbdown on buy-to-let mortgages
Renters also set up stalls outside some of the high-street bank’s branches like this one in Bradford. Image: Acorn

Tom Darling, Renters’ Reform Coalition campaign manager, said: “Today we get confirmation that the Renters Reform Bill won’t pass – meaning the bill is dead and the task of fixing England’s broken renting system will fall to the next government. Renters have been so badly let down.”

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, described the news that the bill has been dropped as “hugely disappointing”. He added: “There has been too much dither and delay in government.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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