Our protest rally Saturday for ACORN member Jacqui Lewis was colourful, fun, noisy and vibrant – not to mention successful!
On Saturday noisy singing ACORN members, including Jacqui, marched into Redfield to protest outside estate agent Holbrook Moran. The protest was an early part of our campaign to end rip-off tenancy fees and insecure renting.
Holbrook Moran closed shop on the day (officially for a wedding, though boss Tobie Holbrook was spotted nearby watching the action) as Green Party Councillor Rob Telford joined our action, giving his own experiences of rental problems and reading out a statement for Jacqui. We received a very warm welcome from Redfield residents, beeping car horns and clapping and several of them joined our campaign.
The protest was calling on Tobie to fix up Jacqui’s house and on this front the action has been a (partial) success! Bristol Council told Tobie in mid-May to start necessary work by 23rd June. He didn’t. They also recommended lots of other work, but can’t force him. But in the week of our action, a month later, Tobie has finally started work! (Tobie has repaired some of Jacqui’s damp walls, and has committed to providing a new door. We’ll keep an eye on things, but hopefully this will sort the problems).
Tobie has promised Jacqui can stay as long as she wants – and we need to make sure he keeps this promise not to evict her! Despite this, Jacqui says “You’ve achieved what nobody else could … I’m so glad I found ACORN … thank you all so much”.
More than 1000 local people are supporting our campaign for change in the rental sector, and Jacqui’s story reminds us why. Jacqui’s previous landlord could easily evict her because she was on a rolling contract. Holbrook Moran offered to save her then left her in a damp, mouldy house with repairs not done.
Like most agents, Holbrook Moran normally charge tenancy fees of around £300 to move someone into a new home, plus £50 contract renewal fees every 6 months. Because of these fees, plus landlords refusal to accept people on benefits (Jacqui receives Disability Living Allowance) Jacqui can’t afford to move, so she has been stuck. Jacqui symbolises thousands of people living in sub-standard housing but who can’t afford to move and are scared of eviction if they complain.
But we’re turning the tables. We have some letting agents worried (see here). Far from intimidating, our campaign intends to be creative, engaging and fun - but we are also determined to be effective. We’re very happy to meet, discuss and engage with property professionals who want to work with us to be an ethical, positive part of our community (as our recent meeting with agents Besley Hill and Piper Property shows) - but we will take action to pressure and shame those who won’t.
Our broader campaign continues. But for now and on a behalf of Jacqui, massive thanks to all of you who have helped so far! (If you want to volunteer to help the campaign, please click here to get in touch)