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ACORN £3,500 of rent debt cleared after union action

ACORN claim victory after day of action against Crapper & Haigh letting agents and Matlock landlord.

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The picket outside Crapper & Haigh on 14 September.

Photo by ACORN.

A Sheffield resident has had £3,500 of rent debt that she says was unfair cleared after a day of action by a tenants' union.

Members of ACORN campaigned outside letting agent Crapper & Haigh on 14 September in support of Sue, who said her family have been through a "years-long ordeal"

"This is about power," said Sue, speaking after the action. "For years I've been pushed around. Now, with my union behind me, I’ve finally got what I deserve."

According to ACORN, the dispute started when Sue missed a single rent payment when she moved jobs to become a children's care worker.

She later missed further payments and Crapper & Haigh implemented what ACORN describe as a "draconian" rent debt policy, adding £1 per day to her debt until it reached £3,500.

Crapper & Haigh boss John Francis pointed out to Now Then that provisions for the payment of interest on late rental payments were in the lease from the day the tenant moved into the property.

ACORN does not dispute that the debt was claimed legally and in accordance with Sue's contract, but they say this trapped their member in "a cycle of debt", with the letting agency “exploiting her shame at falling into arrears”.

Sue also alleges that her house is in poor condition, with a bathroom so mouldy that her children have been forced to take showers at relatives' houses. When Now Then contacted John Francis, he did not refute or comment on this specific allegation.

While Sheffield activists campaigned outside Crapper & Haigh's offices on Figtree Lane, another group of ACORN members confronted the landlady at her house in Matlock. Union members followed the 'rule of six' by campaigning in shifts.

By the end of the day, the landlady agreed to wipe the £3,500 debt and John Francis agreed to write Sue a reference letter so she can find a new home.

"This win means I can put this ordeal behind me, leave this squalid nightmare of a house, and have a fresh start," said Sue.

"I no longer feel bullied, or trapped in mountains of debt that were unfairly placed on me. There’s power in a union!”

In June 2019 we reported that Crapper & Haigh appeared to be instructing staff to continue taking administration fees if these were "voluntarily offered" by tenants, after compulsory payment of the fee had been outlawed by central government.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)
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