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‘They saved me from my despair’: disabled woman saved from Christmas eviction by tenants union

Carlotta, who has progressive MS, was facing eviction having built up rent arrears during the pandemic

A disabled woman who was potentially facing homelessness over Christmas has been saved from eviction after her tenants union intervened on her behalf.

Carlotta, from Brighton, is a member of ACORN tenants union, which lobbied the letting agent on her behalf and eventually convinced the landlord to withdraw the eviction order.

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Landlord ‘refused to negotiate’ to avoid eviction

Carlotta was issued with a section 21 eviction notice which expired on 12 December, meaning she would likely have been left homeless over Christmas and with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly across the UK.

Due to her disability and being wheelchair-bound, Carlotta is in receipt of benefits, which made it very difficult for her to try and find a new home, with some letting agents and landlords less inclined to rent to “DSS” tenants.

Like many renters, Carlotta built up some rent arrears during the pandemic, but had paid back a significant amount shortly before receiving the section 21 notice.

Her landlord refused to negotiate a manageable payment plan with Carlotta and tried to have her evicted, according to ACORN Brighton.

Speaking to NationalWorld, Carlotta said: "The fact that I’m disabled with progressive MS and that moving with three cats was impossible meant that I was feeling hopeless with my search spending more and more on properties that rejected me.

“Then with ACORN's help, they saved me from my despair partly by being able to explain a lot of the things that made no sense to me and that I do have rights to live in my home."

As a member of ACORN tenants union, Carlotta brought the case to her local branch, in Brighton, which came up with a plan to try to help her.

The letting agent through which the property was rented initially said it could do nothing to help Carlotta, according to the union.

So activists from the union picketed the letting agent, demanding that they contact the landlord in question.

Two days after the action began, the landlord withdrew the section 21 notice.

The union was also able to negotiate with the landlord to reduce the rent repayment plan to a rate which was affordable for Carlotta.

‘Collective action’

ACORN Brighton member Drew, who lead the case, said: "This case perfectly demonstrates the power of collective action, and the growing necessity of community unions. Carlotta had sought help from various sources but ultimately was not offered sufficient assistance to stop her from becoming homeless.

“Our Member Defence Team is well experienced in supporting our members through these difficult circumstances, where the help that is supposedly available doesn't scratch the surface of what the reality calls for.

“We will continue fighting for our members, the aftermath of COVID means that unfortunately this will be one of many heartless eviction attempts to come."

Eviction orders being enforced again

A recent investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that hundreds of people have been evicted since a temporary ban on some evictions during the pandemic was lifted.

In many cases the courts were unable to consider whether Covid had played a significant role in the at-fault tenants falling into arrears, and many were evicted following court sessions lasting less than 10 minutes.

ACORN helps prevent members from being evicted, either by campaign efforts or by ‘direct action’ including member defence against bailiffs.

In Bristol the union recently prevented the eviction of a mother and her children, after around 70 people turned up to peacefully prevent bailiffs from accessing the property.

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