Brighton man ‘slept in van’ after police-enforced eviction on eve of lockdown

Anthony, a 47-year-old former carer, said he was forced out of his home on November 4 after receiving a Section 21 eviction notice.
Image credit: "a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/11302107@N05/8175773943">shirokazan/Flickr

A Brighton union is demanding greater renter protections during the pandemic after one of its members was made homeless with just two weeks notice.

On Wednesday November 4, the eve of England’s second national lockdown, ACORN Brighton staged a 27-strong “resistance” to try and stop the eviction of Anthony, a 47-year-old former carer. 

Anthony, who chose not to give his last name, said he was served with a Section 21 eviction notice in September 2019 informing him he had to leave. Anthony took this to court, but the pandemic put the case on hold. 

When the courts reopened Anthony lost and he was given two weeks notice to leave the property. ACORN then attempted to halt the eviction but after the police were called it went ahead.

Anthony was forced to sleep in his work van on one of the coldest nights of the year. 

He told the Big Issue: “There’s going to be hundreds, if not thousands, more evictions after the pandemic settles. There will be people who have lost their jobs over the last six months who will get evicted because they haven’t been able to pay their rent.”

An eviction ban was put in place by the government at the height of the pandemic, but this was lifted at the end of September.

Campaigners now warn that as many as 40,000 renters could be evicted from their homes in the coming months, and are urging the government to ban mandatory evictions, such as the Section 21 “no fault” evictions, during the winter. 

Under Section 21 evictions landlords do not need to give a reason for evicting tenants.

Anthony said he was grateful for the support of ACORN, but there was nothing they would have been able to do due to the police. 

He added: “It took them a couple of weeks for them to try and organise a ride outdefence to keep me in my property, but they came up against the powers of the state, which is just too difficult. 

“The police threatened a lot of people with arrest and scared them away from the front of my house. It was really dodgy the way they did it.” 

A spokesperson for Sussex police said: “We were called to prevent a possible breach of the peace after bailiffs reported that a number of people were trying to prevent an eviction of a man from a property in Chester Terrace, Brighton, on Wednesday 4 November.

“Officers attended and the group later dispersed peacefully.”

ACORN Branch Secretary Leila Erin-Jenkins told the Big Issue the union has been campaigning for an end to evictions and greater protections for renters during the pandemic. 

She said: “The government doesn’t seem bothered at all, and we want the public to realise what’s going on, we don’t think people really understand that this is happening. 

“These evictions are outrageous, specifically in a pandemic. ACORN will be doing everything that we can to train up our members to resist these evictions. 

“We won’t stop until we make sure that every member of our organisation is protected because nobody should be homeless.”

ACORN is now writing to the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner to demand an explanation. 

The Union say that the incident was a civil and not a criminal matter, and argue that the police should not have been dispatched to facilitate the eviction. 

Erin-Jenkins added: “Anthony understood that he needed to leave the property, it was just that he needed a bit longer.

“We were arguing for an extra month as he had only been given two weeks to leave the property. 

“It doesn’t seem right, it was on the eve of the second national lockdown, and it was just incredible how they felt this was appropriate to put someone on the street. 

“He ended up sleeping in his work van that night, and it was incredibly cold that night as well. We were disgusted by the whole thing.”

The Big Issue is fighting the housing and unemployment crisis through the Ride Out Recession Alliance, bringing together the most innovative ideas and experts to help keep people in work and in their homes during the recession.

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