13 Oct 2022

“We’ll train people to resist evictions” says Renters Reform group

One of the many activist groups in the so-called Renters’ Reform Coalition has pledged to “train people across the country to resist evictions.”

The group – called Acorn – does not specify how this resistance will manifest itself.

The group issued the statement following speculation that the government would renege on its pledge to scrap landlords’ Section 21 eviction powers; however, this happened before the latest U-turn by Prime Minister Liz Truss who now says Section 21 WILL, after all, be abolished.

The Acorn statement says: “If the government won’t protect renters, we will! ACORN stands up for our members and communities, fighting back against poor quality of housing, bullying landlords and bad estate agents, and we will resist attempts to make anyone homeless this winter. 

“Not only will we continue using our strength in numbers to resist evictions, but we will be running eviction resistance training up and down the country. If you sign this pledge, we’ll let you know about training sessions near to you. Today, we’re asking you to take a pledge to keep people safe in their homes!” (Our emphasis).

Acorn is part of the so-called Renters Reform Coalition, a group set up around two years ago and which includes Shelter, the National Union of Students, the London Renters Union and the office of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The coalition is managed by Generation Rent, which is led by former Labour peer Baroness Alicia Kennedy.

At the time it was set up spokeswoman Bridget Young – of the Nationwide Foundation, which helps fund the coalition – said: “The government has pledged to end section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, and one year ago we welcomed its plans to reform private renting in the upcoming Renters’ Reform Bill. 

“This bill is an opportunity to redesign our housing system, creating a fairer balance between renters and landlords. Implemented correctly, these reforms are also a chance to improve the safety, security and condition of privately rented homes.

“We are looking forward to working with the government and other partners, to take this opportunity to deliver a more just housing system. The Coalition is a broad group but we are united in our belief that everyone needs a safe, affordable and secure home, where they can live and flourish.”

Earlier this year Acorn was involved in a court dispute which ended with it having to pay just under £100,000 to a landlord to settle a legal case for harassment, defamation and breach of data rights.

Acorn waged what the landlord’s legal defence called “a campaign of harassment.”  It reportedly included filming and confronting the landlord at her home, holding placards bearing defamatory statements, blogging and posting abusive statements on social media, threatening her using a loud hailer, approaching her in public, and holding a ‘public meeting’ about her outside Sheffield town hall.

Neighbours received leaflets calling the landlord “dodgy”. Yet the dispute between the landlord and her tenant – said to be an Acorn member – was over just £300.

JMW Solicitors, which represented the landlord, said the campaign went on for four months, and involved “noisy demonstrations involving scores of people as well as highly defamatory and incorrect posts on social media”.

At the time of the case the Sheffield Star quoted the landlord as saying: “The last two years have been unbearable and frightening. I’m relieved and pleased the case has been resolved in my favour and now the harassment will stop. I also wanted to prevent this from happening to other business owners.”

Head organiser for the group, Nick Ballard, said at the time: “We can’t comment on the specifics of this case but ACORN remains committed to its mission of winning justice for and protecting its members and advancing the cause of low income people and communities across the country. Nothing will deter us from this.”

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