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Campaigners halt eviction after man told his home is ‘no longer used for the Eritrean Community’

The tenant, from African country Eritrea, had his eviction order cancelled at a court hearing after housing campaigners took on his case

eviction Eritrea

The tenant, who wished not to be named, celebrated halting his eviction outside Wandsworth County Court last week. Image: HASL

A supported housing tenant originally from Eritrea was told he was facing an eviction because the housing provider was no longer housing “people from the Eritrean Community”.

The tenant, who wishes not to be named, was served a section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice in March 2022 by Optivo housing association.

The letter stated the property, where he has lived for seven years, is “no longer used for the Eritrean Community”.

The move sparked fury with housing campaigners Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) accusing the landlord of racism.

Optivo, now Southern Housing, apologised for the wording in the letter, stating it was intended to explain the housing association is no longer working with charity Eritrean Community UK. A Southern Housing spokesperson “strongly refuted” any suggestion that the tenant faced eviction due to his nationality.

The tenant and the housing group were celebrating last week when the eviction order was scrapped at Wandsworth County Court because of a technicality. Now HASL wants the tenant to be rehoused in social housing.

“It was a big win – we’ve stopped the eviction for now,” said HASL’s Liz Wyatt.

“Social landlords should never be using section 21 no-fault eviction notices against their tenants. Receiving a section 21 eviction notice is devastating enough for any tenant, but being told you are being evicted because of your nationality is even more sickening.

“But our campaign continues to make sure that our member is safely re-housed in local social housing as he has been promised in the past. The housing association’s handling of this case shows they have a long way to go to gain the trust of our member and other Black, Asian and minority ethnic tenants.”

The tenant told HASL the prospect of being without a home was “stressful” and left him struggling to get on with his life.

eviction letter Eritrea
The tenant received the eviction letter in March 2022 warning him that the property would no longer be used for the Eritrean Community. Image: HASL

“I feel bad, it’s not right how they are treating me,” he said ahead of the hearing on February 6.

“When they accepted me, I was Eritrean, and now they are saying that because I am Eritrean, they are evicting me. What is the different between before and now?”

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The tenant launched a court challenge over the section 21 eviction but his application was initially not recognised by the court. It now has been, and the eviction order has been cancelled on that basis, but the landlord is still trying to evict him. He is now preparing a new defence, according to Nick Bano, a barrister from Garden Court Chambers who represented him.

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Optivo, now Southern Housing, responded to an open letter from HASL in December after the campaign group urged supporters to protest against the eviction.

The housing group said the tenant is being asked to leave because he no longer first the criteria for supported housing.

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A Southern Housing spokesperson said: “We strongly refute any suggestion our resident is being evicted because they are a member of the Eritrean community. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards discriminatory behaviour of any kind and take reports of racism very seriously.

“We continue to offer support to our resident to find suitable accommodation that meets his needs. We’re unable to comment further while court proceedings are active.”

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