A DIRECT ACTION group has started a campaign to prevent evictions of tenants in Lancashire.
Videos posted on social media site YouTube appear to show several people coming together outside houses in Oldham, Manchester Liverpool and Blackburn.
One of the unnamed group,Melanie Batty from Oldham, said that since August up to 20 friends and other people have been confronting and disrupting the work of groups of men who she said were bailiffs in a ‘peaceful’ manner.
She said that the group believe that the policy of evicting tenants who allegedly have not been able to keep up to mortgage payments is ‘inhumane’ at a time of increased unemployment.
Under British law mortgage lenders are legally allowed to call in bailiffs over non-payments in certain situations so they can then sell the affected property to pay off accrued debts.
However they must give ‘reasonable’ chance for residents to pay off debts, apply for possession and warrant orders from court and only use ‘reasonable force’ to enter a property.
In the four videos posted online groups of people are seen sitting on lawns outside the houses to await the bailiffs who upon approach are then asked to produce legal documents.
They then focus the camera on the staff whilst asking them questions about their right to be there.
The bailiffs are then seen talking amongst themselves and phoning unknown parties before leaving the properties.
Melanie, 33, said that the group was ‘growing in number’ since around 10 people got together to try prevent the eviction of a mutual friend.
The unnamed man had apparently shared his worries after being notified that bailiffs would be dispatched over failure to keep up with mortgage payments.
Melanie, a former law student at University of Huddersfield, said that they operate through a telephone network when one of the party hears about a prospective eviction attempt.
No videos have yet been posted of attempts to prevent repeated eviction attempts at the same house.
She said: “We think that evictions are inhumane and that in many cases they are attempted without the correct legal documentation.
“We also believe that people who are financially struggling, especially now in an economic recession, should under no circumstances be evicted due to the incredible negative impact it could have on their potentially already fragile mental health.
“If we are informed about a prospective eviction that the home owner would like help in preventing we agree to turn up to the properties in a group.
“Seeing groups of us there on its own makes bailiffs uncomfortable because it means that they have witnesses to any actions they may try to take.
“In our experience the bailiffs haven’t been able to produce the legal documents required when we have asked to see them.
“We will also talk to them about the psychological effect the eviction could have on the residents and I am certain that this has contributed in at least one case to them deciding to leave the property grounds.
“I think if more people get together to stop evictions like this it will make it harder for bailiffs to carry out evictions.”
Commenting on the alleged actions Rossendale Citizens Advice Bureau manager Kester Dean said: “What this group alleges they are doing in these videos is intriguing. “Residents are legally unable to prevent evictions in cases where the correct legal processes have been followed.
“I am unsure how many times groups like this would be able to prevent an eviction if a mortgage lender wants to reclaim unpaid debts.
“However their claims that they have averted evictions through peaceful and legal actions is interesting.
“I think it is plausible that these grass-roots attempts could become more commonplace if the recession and its associated negative affects in terms of unemployment and household debts continues.
“Anyone facing eviction should in the first instance contact appropriate organisations such as CAB for professional advice on their legal rights and what to do.”
No major bailiff agencies spoken to by The Rest is Propaganda knew of any attempts of members of the public to prevent bailiffs from entering properties.
See the video below of one of the group’s attempted eviction preventions in Blackburn.