New leaflet covering victorstone case

We need to add contact details, but you can download a pdf of a brief leaflet covering the successful Victorstone dispute here: victorstonecase

Due to it’s size it should fit neatly into Solfed’s Stuff Your Landlord: http://solfed.org.uk/?q=solfed/new-stuff-your-landlord-leaflet

We’re hoping to distribute copies of this at the Islington Starbucks Housing Teach-in this Saturday. The text is below …

The Victorstone dispute – a direct action casework success

Recently Housing Solidarity, with other groups including Solfed, Staines
Anarchists and London IWW, organised a successful campaign to reclaim
money off an opportunistic letting agent, on behalf of 3 tenants.

The Case
3 tenants rented a property through Victorstone in Shoreditch, paying £3,451
as rent and deposit. Victorstone fell out with the landlords over the fees they
would take and the landlord changed the locks, just after the tenants had
moved in.

The Aim
The tenants had no real desire to explore whether there was scope to talk the
landlord into reestablishing the tenancy. The aim was to get the possessions
back and have all the money returned. The difficulty was the landlord and
Victorstone each had part of the money. Victorstone had made it clear they
considered the landlord wholly responsible for the situation and intended to
keep £1200 as their fee.

Step 1: Gaining access to the flat to get the belongings
The first step was to access the belongings, as these were of greatest value to
the tenants. To do this it was decided to make a request to the landlord for
access, giving the impression that this was simply to remove belongings. The
landlord agreed to this arrangement after some evasive discussion.
Outside the flat the tenants were asked to sign a statement, which appeared to
be an attempt to nulify the tenancy. The tenants refused and some strong words
saw the keys handed over pretty quickly and they had access to the flat.

Step 2: Reclaiming the money from the landlord
Once in possession of the flat, it was decided to demand the return of all the
money the landlord had or we would stay in the flat. We didn’t make this
demand until we were in the place, so as not to jeapordise step 1. The landlord
was told to make a bank transfer to the tenants and then send a screen shot of
the confirmation via email. When this was done the tenants left.

Step 3: reclaiming the remaining money from Victorstone.
Now we began to talk to Victorstone. Following the strategy of escalation we
began small with a few people calling and emailing. After a while they started
putting up barriers to the conversation, such as refusing to speak to anyone
except the tenants, or saying their hands were tied by legal advice.

Next 3 of us paid them a visit. Victorstone are quite hotheaded so it was
relatively easy to get them wound up. Within 10 minutes of calling them
thieves and similar they were calling the police and physically threatening us.
We left so they had to deal with the police and we didn’t, as dealing with the
police is a lottery and tedious at best.

Next we issued an ultimatum and published it on a blog, giving them about 48
hours to pay up or we’d take ‘further action’. We circulated plans for a 2 hour
communications blockade on private email lists so Victorstone wouldn’t find
it by googling their name. Then the evening before the action when we set up
a facebook group with all the email addresses, phone and fax numbers that
we’d managed to collect for various Victorstone offices.

When the deadline expired the barrage began, including totally black faxes,
fake enquiries that dragged on before turning into complaints, as well as
straightforward complaints coming from the tenants and their friends. After an
hour and a half Victorstone called up one of the tenants asking for their bank
account details to transfer the money.

In conclusion
Victorstone had put up exactly the kind of smokescreen that would have put
most tenants off. The tenants had already spoken to the council who were
unhelpful, and had discovered a court case would likely take months with an
uncertain outcome. As campaigners we were able to help the tenants through
the whole process and at the same time use the tactics we want to see
popularised.

As this was a use of direct action tactics to support individuals, it can be
thought of as an example of direct action casework. We believe this can be a
stepping stone to wider collective action for networks that are just getting
started. At the same time it has a place in longterm struggle defending
individuals against exploitation.

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About housolidarity

We call for a radical housing movement as part of broader solidarity against austerity and an end to all evictions. housolidarity@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Housing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to New leaflet covering victorstone case

  1. Pingback: 2012 in review: Notes on the year the world didn’t end | Cautiously pessimistic

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