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Tenants in Bristol claim victory after halting ‘illegal eviction’

TENANT rights activists in Bristol have celebrated victory for community justice after halting landlords’ attempt to carry out an “illegal eviction.”

Acorn tenants’ union member Cyrus, who has not given his surname, was told on March 5 by rental agency Murrays Home Lettings that he was to be evicted from his home in Bristol.

He says the eviction was related to his demand that the landlord improve poor conditions in his house.

Photographic evidence been by the Star show huge cracks in the wall, mould on the roof, walls that were not covered with wallpaper and holes in the floor.

After he had complained, the letting agents summoned a court order which said that the previous occupant was still in the household, and that he was a “squatter” rather than a resident.

This is despite the fact that Cyrus was living there  – and recorded evidence of him paying the letting agents the rent with cash-in-hand money was obtained by Acorn.

The tenant rights organisation accused Murrays of failing to comply with its legal obligations to Cyrus.

Scores of Acorn members protested outside the house, surrounding the front door and garden, to prevent bailiffs turning up to evict him the following day, on March 6.

Bailiffs left but returned to the property this week, on Wednesday March 20, prompting Acorn members to mobilise outside the property again to prevent their entry.

Acorn activists also staged a brief occupation of Murrays to demand Cyrus be recognised as the tenant and for repairs to be carried out.

They claim housing agents became “extremely abusive” towards them and that a bailiff returned with “no warning” to the property on March 21.

Acorn organiser Nick Ballard told the Star: “We got a call from Cyrus to say that they were banging on the door.

“He was scared and didn’t know what to do.

“We arrived to find that the bailiff had already gained access to the property — tricking his way in, as Cyrus put it.”

Acorn members livestreamed the event and challenged the bailiff and letting agent about the legality of the situation.

Within a few minutes, members of the local community began turning out in large numbers after being alerted to the situation on Facebook and Twitter, and a lively picket maintained a presence outside.

In attempting to secure possession of the house, Acorn members claim that the bailiff started a fight during which the tenant and Mr Ballard were assaulted.

Observers claim that during the altercation, the bailiff ripped the front door off its hinges and that Cyrus was hurt, having to be later taken to hospital following a head injury, which caused significant damage to his eye.

Although the bailiff locked Cyrus inside the house with him and attempted to prevent anyone else from entering, Acorn members gained access through an open window, getting back into the house.

The bailiff was then unable to carry out the eviction and the locksmith, who was present at the scene, refused to change the locks.

Murrays has finally accepted that Cyrus is the rightful tenant and has agreed to carry out repairs.

Acorn Bristol branch secretary Jon Hardy said: “Illegal evictions are happening all the time and landlords are getting away with it.

“Fortunately in this case, Cyrus was a member of Acorn, so we turned up three times to stop three illegal evictions taking place.

“If he wasn’t in the union, he’d be homeless by now.”

Cyrus, who is a music producer and an advocate for young people in the local community, told the Star: “I would like to thank all Acorn members for their support during this ordeal.

“It is my greatest wish to officially open my place to local ‘youngaz’ that need studio time, once it has been repaired of course.

“If we don’t take care of each other, no-one else will.”

Murrays residential lettings agent Mark Dehaney explained that the confusion stemmed from the property being sublet without the company’s knowledge or consent.

He said: “Mr Robert Murray was not aware of my actions and neither Robert Murray or Murrays residential lettings or myself profited or benefited from my action which I personally carried out, as the property is owned by a friend and I dealt directly with them.

“I am sorry for my actions and will learn from this experience.”

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