A landlord has begun legal proceedings against a pressure group after being the victim of a four-month campaign of harassment.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Zobia Rafique, a Sheffield landlady, have revealed how she had been left - in their words - “humiliated and frightened to leave her own home since being targeted by members of Acorn.”
Nick McAleenan, a partner with JMW Solicitors, says Rafique had been subjected to more than a dozen defamatory social media posts and had 40 Acorn activists demonstrate outside her home because of a disagreement over a deposit with a tenant.
He adds that her neighbours have also been sent leaflets labelling her a "dodgy landlord".
McAleenan claimed that Rafique had been "left with no alternative" but to take further action once the campaign continued despite a ruling by the Deposit Protection Service in her favour.
"The impact of the activities of Acorn's members has been considerable and very damaging for Mrs Rafique and her family. They have had to endure four months of distress through no fault of their own” explains McAleenan.
"There have been noisy demonstrations outside their home involving scores of people as well as highly defamatory and incorrect posts on social media. Acorn's statements suggest that this has been done in an attempt to effectively bully Mrs Rafique into handing over money that she was perfectly entitled to.
"No-one would deny people the right to protest. However, in this case, what has happened has far exceeded what anybody might regard as reasonable behaviour. The fact that Acorn has persisted in unfairly targeting Mrs Rafique, her husband and four children even after the Deposit Protection Service concluded that she was in the right means that she feels compelled to use legal means to try and bring this harassment to an end."
McAleenan explained that the dispute developed after Rafique agreed to let a room in one of her properties a fortnight before Christmas last year. The tenant allegedly changed her mind and demanded the signed agreement be ignored and her £300 deposit returned.
McAleenan says messages were placed on Twitter and Facebook accusing Rafique of being a "dodgy landlord" who had "stolen" the tenant's money. The protests culminated in a march on the landlord’s home by 40 Acorn members on December 13.
Details of alleged activities by Acorn members against Rafique have been set out in a 17-page 'letter before action' sent to the group by JMW Solicitors.
A statement to Landlord Today on behalf of the solicitors says that if the dispute is not immediately resolved by that letter, Rafique may then issue a claim at court.
McAleenan claims Acorn has continued its campaign with further meetings, 'phone calls, social media and text messages, and has tried to arrange fake viewings of some of her other properties.
Acorn has been asked for its comments.
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