Estate agents hit back at peaceful protestors

Protestors with red banner outside office

Acorn staging a peaceful protest outside abbotFox estate agents in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

Bosses at a Norwich estate agency have made a complaint to the police after a series of protests by union members demanding two former tenants are paid more than £5,000 compensation.

Police are investigating after scores of negative reviews were left online and a series of protests were held outside the abbotFox offices in Upper King Street.   

Two mums with three young children

Dr Sophie Housden, wife Shey and their family. - Credit: Archant/Sophie Housden

The row began when the former tenants, Dr Sophie Housden and her wife Shey, rented a property owned by one of the agency's directors Ivor Newman. But the couple and their three children stayed less than a week after reporting several problems, including damp, soiled furniture in the garden and worms around the sink.

The pair said they feared the water was not safe to drink. 

Damp on a wall behind the washing machine at 15 St Martins Road, Norwich. Photo: Sophie Housden

Damp on a wall behind the washing machine at 15 St Martins Road, Norwich. Photo: Sophie Housden - Credit: Archant

However abbotFox said a pest control contractor had visited the home and “could not find any larvae in any areas” adding that Anglian Water told them it was not possible for worms to be in the water supply.

They said they had the water privately tested twice on August 6 and no contamination was found. They also stated a council report recommended upgrades if the property was to be rented again. These included  an upgrade of extractor fans, loft insulation and to carry out a survey on damp.

Protestors outside estate agency

Acorn staging a peaceful protest outside abbotFox estate agents. - Credit: Acorn

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The couple, with the backing of community union Acorn, are now claiming £5,412.66 from abbotFox.

The bill includes £179 for cleaning carpets, £750 for removals and £2,700 for the difference in rent they are now paying.

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But the firm has refused to pay the compensation instead urging the couple to take their claim through the ombudsman. 

However after the refusal to do this, dozens of negative reviews flooded abbotFox's Facebook page causing the agency's ranking to nose-dive. 

The directors have also instructed lawyers. 

They said: "The last few months haven’t been easy because of these people. We are a small independent company trying to survive with many members of staff working to provide for their families.

"We care about our customers, our staff and our community. We feel we should make a statement that bullying is not ok."

Dr Housden said: "I could afford to pick up my babies and move but others can't.

"I don't want to hurt any business, their rating (on Facebook) doesn't really mean anything to me but if you are coming from a good place to protect and warn a community, spreading the word has got to be of benefit."

Acorn is a national union of community members fighting for better rights for low income people. It is fundamentally against landlords who use housing to make private profit.

The Acorn spokesman said: "We have been holding pickets to make it public knowledge that we feel there is an inherent balance between people who own property and those who rent it. If individuals feel concerned, it is their right to leave a bad review and express their disdain."

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