A letting agent says his firm has been wrongly labelled a villain rather than a victim by tenant activists.
The latest clash with Acorn centres on claims that Bristol based Murrays Lettings attempted to illegally evict a tenant four times.
In fact, the property was being sub-let illegally and an agent for the same firm had agreed to let the property to the sub-tenants without the knowledge of Murrays Lettings boss Rob Murray.
Murray told EYE: “The real villain is sub-letting – it is too easy to do, there are no repercussions or ramifications.
“We and our client are being held to account for someone else’s actions.
“This issue will get a lot worse if the court process isn’t boosted once Section 21 notices are gone.”
Bristol student Cyrus Coxswain agreed to rent a property last year from a purported landlord called Sam Mitchell, who was actually the original tenant and had effectively converted the property into an HMO without permission.
The sub-letting tenant had been paying £750 to Murrays to rent the property while collecting £1,800 from his sub-letting operation. At one point it is believed that eight people were living in the property.
Mitchell has disappeared but once Bristol City Council was aware of the HMO situation, it was ready to fine the owner of the property for letting without the required licence.
The landlord and Murrays Lettings were shocked to discover the property had been used as an HMO and took action to evict the tenant, who they assumed was still Sam Mitchell.
An eviction notice was granted at the end of last year, but Murray had not been made aware that one of his agents, Mark Dehaney, had agreed to let the sub-tenants stay longer and pay the rent directly to him instead.
On March 20, Dehaney then sent a text and letter to Coxswain warning that he was set to be evicted.
It was at this point that Coxswain joined Acorn and together they approached Murrays Lettings offices to protest.
Murray said he was shocked at the “mob mentality” and was not aware of the agreement with Dehaney, so described Coxswain as a squatter and angrily ordered him and the protesters to leave.
Bailiffs arrived at the property the following day, when Coxswain then revealed a recording he had made of Dehaney agreeing to let him and others remain in the property.
An agreement was then made through police at the scene for Mitchell to be effectively evicted in his absence, but it was agreed that Coxswain would sign a formal agreement with Dehaney to stay.
Murray apologised at the time to Acorn for his response and said he was unaware of Dehaney’s actions.
The property was taken off the agent’s books and managed privately by Dehaney who failed in another attempt to evict Coxswain earlier this month.
Dehaney has been suspended by Murrays Lettings pending an internal investigation.
Murray said Dehaney had been naive but was a friend of the landlord and had been trying to help her.
He added: “The Acorn protesters were aggressive. I know I got angry but we were doing everything within the law.
“I am running a business, and it is not nice to have your office invaded.”