The Sheffield Star reports that a landlord has been awarded £100,000 in damages after taking a community rights group to court for harassment and defamation.

The landlord, Mrs Rafique, was subject to a campaign of harrassment by the Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now (ACORN). The landlord’s former tenant, an Acorn member, got the group involved.

Problems started in 2020 when the former tenant signed up for a room but then changed her mind and the landlord refused to return the deposit. The landlord’s solicitors, JMW Solicitors, stated the Deposit Protection Service had made judgement in the landlord’s favour.

What followed included:

  • Abusive posts and statements on social media.
  • Filming of the landlord at her home.
  • Threatening her using loud hailers.
  • Confronting the landlord in public places.
  • Holding a ‘public meeting’ about Mrs Rafique outside Sheffield Town Hall.
  • Neighbours received leaflets describing her as a ‘dodgy landlord’.

The landlord, who rents rooms across Sheffield through her business, Century One Estates, launched legal action in 2021 against the former tenant and the group for defamation and harassment. Her solicitors stated the campaign went on for four months with noisy demonstrations that involved scores of people.

In the settlement ACORN paid just under £100,000 in costs and damages to Mrs Rafique and her company, issued two written apologies and provided an agreement to never repeat the conduct again.

Mrs Rafique said: “The last two years have been unbearable and frightening. I’m relieved and pleased the case has been resolved in my favour and now the harassment will stop. I also wanted to prevent this from happening to other business owners.”

Head organiser for the ACORN group, Nick Ballard, said: “We can’t comment on the specifics of this case but ACORN remains committed to its mission of winning justice for and protecting its members and advancing the cause of low income people and communities across the country. Nothing will deter us from this.”

A spokesman for JMW Solicitors said: “We are delighted to have successfully acted for Mrs Rafique in this case and to have brought it to a close in her favour and Century One’s favour. Unfortunately, despite being in the wrong in their allegations against Mrs Rafique, the tenant and ACORN embarked upon a campaign of harassment against her. Clearly, there is a place for legal and legitimate campaigning, but the tenant’s and ACORN’s conduct seriously crossed the line.”