A group of around 100 renters who were faced with a “revenge eviction” for speaking out against their billionaire landlord have won their fight to have the notice revoked.
On Thursday, tenants of Somerford Grove in east London received a letter from letting agents Tower Quay informing them that the “notice seeking possession of the property” was withdrawn.
The Somerford Grove residents garnered national coverage in April after Tower Quay refused a request for coronavirus rent relief based on the idea that tenants would save money on lunch and holidays. They later discovered that their landlord was a set of companies majority-owned by billionaire property developer John Christodoulou.
After campaign representatives spoke publicly to media and received threats of legal action if they organised a rent strike, Tower Quay presented tenants with a Section 21 eviction notice in the middle of the pandemic. Residents of Somerford Grove say it was clear that speaking out about their struggle provoked the notice.
Tenants are relieved at the withdrawal of the eviction notice, but say they are concerned this may not be the end of their eviction fight with Tower Quay and Christodoulou.
Jordan Osserman, one of the tenants of Somerford Grove, told VICE World News: “Even if we've just made it more difficult for them to evict us, and we've delayed the process, that still shows that our efforts are working. I'm really happy about that. If it becomes a long term solution, and we actually win the right to stay, I’ll be through the roof.”
Osserman says the campaign group has been working with Hackney Council. The council has confirmed it is investigating whether properties let by Tower Quay lack a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence – a requirement when a property is occupied by three or more tenants who aren’t part of the same family. If a landlord is found in breach of an HMO licence, it can be liable for a £30,000 fine.
The campaigners say they will continue to fight for their demands for rent debt to be forgiven for those who have been affected by COVID-19, no evictions during 2021, an apology for legal retaliation and an agreement to meet regularly to discuss maintenance issues.
VICE World News reached out to Tower Quay but it had not responded by time of publishing.
Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who supported the campaign, said: "I'm delighted the eviction notices have been withdrawn from the Somerford Grove renters. This is a victory for the campaigners and a victory for common sense. All eviction threats should be dropped. The tenants deserve to live in safety and security, and I hope that now happens."