STUDENTS have set up a union for tenants to defend rights for people in rented accommodation.

Members met at Oxford Town Hall on Tuesday night to officially launch a group they hope will protect people from rogue landlords.

The aim is to take action against rogue landlords and letting agencies, although organisers have not yet been able define exactly what they will do.

It differs from the Oxford City Council Tenants Scrutiny Panel which focuses on giving tenants the chance to improve the area they live in.

The group – organised by Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University and Ruskin College students – wants to include residents from across the city.

Aylon Cohen, 24, a postgraduate political theory student at Oxford University, said he had problems with rented accommodation as a student.

Mr Cohen, of Magdalen Road, said: “By getting together we want people to be able to share their problems.

“The city council can help, but it is more on a one-on-one basis. Through this we hope to identify problems and work on ways to solve them or tackle landlords and letting agencies.”

The group said: “Discussing with other tenants, we’ve learned that landlords are unresponsive and uncaring, that they can break contracts without repercussions, that letting agencies are unable or unwilling to help, and finally that tenants without money or legal expertise have no means to defend themselves.

"Therefore, workers and students have come together as tenants from across Oxford to begin demanding their rights and taking action.”

One member Vera Wriedt , 22, a PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) student at Hertford College, who lives in Cowley, said: “We want people to come together and then we can do something about it.

“This affects people right across the spectrum but as students we know there are some landlords who take advantage of the fact that students only stay in accommodation for a year so things don’t get sorted out.”

Oxford University Students' Union charities and community vice-president Dan Tomlinson said: “I hope the Oxford Tenants' Union will, in time, mean that letting agents and landlords respond more quickly to the concerns and problems that people face living in private rented accommodation.

“I also hope it will mean that we can get more information out to tenants in Oxford allowing them to be more aware of their rights as tenants.”

Tips for tenants

Oxford City Council provides advice to private tenants including:

  • Contact the landlord in the first instance but note details and date
  • If an appropriate response is not received, the council’s Tenancy Relations Officer can investigate and, if necessary, take enforcement action
  • Informal action is first response, but formal action (statutory notices and prosecution) may be necessary
  • Work must be done at reasonable times and with a day’s warning
  • Since 2007, when you pay a deposit, your landlord or agent must protect it using a Government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme
  • If you are being harassed, seek advice immediately
  • Call the council on 01865 249811