An activist group that has staged many protests against letting agents must pay just under £100,000 in costs and damages to a landlord, to settle a legal case for harassment, defamation and breach of data rights.
Local media in Yorkshire report that Acorn - formally called the Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now - waged what the landlord’s legal defence called “a campaign of harassment”
It included filming and confronting the landlord at her home, holding placards bearing defamatory statements, blogging and posting abusive statements on social media, threatening use of a loud hailer, approaching her in public, and holding a ‘public meeting’ about her outside Sheffield town hall. Neighbours also 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”.
The Sheffield Star quotes 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.”
A spokesman for JMW Solicitors tells the Sheffield Star: “We are delighted to have successfully acted for [landlord] Mrs Rafique in this case and to have brought it to a close in her favour and Century One’s favour. Unfortunately, despite being in the wrong in their allegations against Mrs Rafique, the tenant and ACORN embarked upon a campaign of harassment against her. Clearly, there is a place for legal and legitimate campaigning, but the tenant’s and ACORN’s conduct seriously crossed the line.”
As part of the settlement, ACORN, which advocates for social change for low and moderate income households, paid just under £100,000 in costs and damages to Mrs Rafique and Century One Estates, in addition to issuing two written apologies and providing an agreement to never repeat the conduct again.
Head organiser for the group, Nick Ballard, says: “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.”
Acorn is a prominent part of the Renters Reform Coalition, which advocates radical changes to private renting.
You can see the full story reported by the Sheffield Star here.