A London lettings has tweeted that it does not share the view of one of its own branch managers who said protestors were misguided to enter the local branch and upset hisv staff when instead “It’s the Houses of Parliament they should be attacking.”
Last month Letting Agent Today reported that a campaign group called Digs had claimed to have mystery shopped 50 letting agencies in Hackney, north London, and afterwards alleged several discriminated against tenants who claim housing benefit.
The group says on its website that between December and mid-February it also asked the agencies if they had a company policy on the issue, and whether the use of guarantors would make a difference to landlords who say ‘No DSS’.
It claimed that at the end of the exercise, it found only one studio flat that was available for DSS claimants.
After the group made the claim it held a protest in Hackney, apparently entering some letting agency offices and challenging staff on the issue.
The Hackney Gazette newspaper and Hackney Post online site claim that the police were called when protestors entered the offices of letting and sales agency Stirling Ackroyd, with branch manager Athos Kleanthous alleging a member of staff had been distressed and was crying as a result of the onslaught from the protestors.
Kleanthous is quoted in the Hackney Post as saying: “I don’t know why they are targeting estate agents. It’s the Houses of Parliament they should be attacking. David Cameron is the one who started this all by cutting housing benefit, it’s this which makes landlords reluctant to take on people reliant on benefits. Letting agents can’t do anything about it. We would take DSS tenants every day of the week but when we put them through to the landlords, they are just not interested.”
In the Hackney Gazette, Kleanthous is quoted as saying. “The whole thing was nothing short of ridiculous. ... If they spent as much time on their own lives as they do protesting they might get somewhere in life. We do take DSS, but all of the landlords we work with don’t want tenants on housing benefit. When the Tories came to power they changed how much they were going to contribute to DSS tenants. They should be storming the Houses of Parliament not estate agents.”
However, when challenged by the protest group Digs as to whether this represented the corporate view of Stirling Ackroyd, the agency’s official Twitter account carried the message: “Hi all, this isn’t the view of SA & we do not support the comment made by Athos. Thanks”
The response - although now appearing to have been deleted by Stirling Ackroyd - is still posted on the Digs Twitter account.