A landlord has won £100,000 in damages from tenants’ union ACORN for organising a campaign of harassment against her.


Zobia Rafique (pictured) sued for harassment, defamation and breach of data rights after a low-level disagreement with tenant Aya Hoez over the return of a £300 deposit escalated when the group got involved.

ACORN members blogged and posted abusive statements on social media, threatened Rafique using a loud hailer and held a public meeting about her outside Sheffield town hall.

Neighbours received leaflets describing her as a ‘dodgy landlord’ and the group also delivered a demand letter to her house where they filmed her and sang Christmas carols.

In 2021, JMW Solicitors, which represented the landlord, said the campaign went on for four months and involved “noisy demonstrations involving scores of people as well as highly defamatory and incorrect posts on social media”.

The dispute started when Rafique, who rents rooms across Sheffield through her business, Century One Estates, reportedly refused to return a £300 deposit to Hoez who had signed up for a room but then changed her mind.

The Deposit Protection Service ruled in Rafique’s favour but ACORN continued to target her.

She told the Sheffield Star: “The last two years have been unbearable and frightening. I’m relieved and pleased the case has been resolved in my favour and now the harassment will stop. I also wanted to prevent this from happening to other business owners.”

A spokesman for JMW Solicitors added: “Clearly, there is a place for legal and legitimate campaigning, but the tenant’s and ACORN’s conduct seriously crossed the line.”

As part of the settlement, ACORN paid just under £100,000 in costs and damages to the landlord and her business, as well as issuing two written apologies and agreeing not to repeat the conduct.

nick acorn

Head organiser for the group, Nick Ballard (pictured), vowed to continue fighting for tenants’ rights. “ACORN remains committed to its mission of winning justice for and protecting its members and advancing the cause of low-income people and communities across the country,” he said. “Nothing will deter us from this.”


  1. WELL DONE Ms Rafique !!!

    Not everyone can do it and many more wouldn’t risk the costs involved with it, so I have full respect to this lady for standing up against these bullies and for her rights.

    The guy from Acorn doesn’t care though – who on earth is funding this lot? – perhaps when we find out we can vote with our wallets and feet.

  2. Head organiser for the group, Nick Ballard (pictured), vowed to continue fighting for tenants’ rights. “ACORN remains committed to its mission of winning justice for and protecting its members and advancing the cause of low-income people and communities across the country,” he said. “Nothing will deter us from this.”

    Animal rights campaigners used to use similar rhetoric until they were jailed… We don’t hear a peep out of them anymore.

    Sad but true that the £100,000 will actually come from the taxpayers via councils who fund the organisation.

  3. The Bully Babies vowed to continue for fight for tenant’s rights. “ACORN remains committed to its mission of winning justice…….” Well done – the courts have ruled in this case and justice has been dispensed by the proper authority the courts and not The Mob. Well done Zobia

  4. Tenant’s rights activists have an important role to play and should focus on bringing attention to those landlords acting outside the law and embarrassing councils into taking legal action where it’s warranted. What they should not be doing is bullying landlords who are acting entirely within the law and have had an independent adjudication supporting their actions. This is nothing more than adult-sized toddlers throwing a tantrum, because a tenant didn’t get it all their own way and they don’t like it. The law is there to protect the rights of all parties. If you don’t like a law then campaign to change it.

  5. I DON’T believe ANY LEGALLY compliant LL would have any issue with any complaints 8f they had not been legally compliant.

    Clearly this hasn’t been the case in this situation.

    The LL was COMPLETELY in the right on this occasion.

    Perhaps ACORN should pursue the LL who are housing over 2.5 million ILLEGAL immigrants.

    Most legally compliant LL would actively support ACORN in action against Illegals.

    However it is almost as though ACORN had a left-wing ideology that SUPPORTS MASS UNCONTROLLED IMMIGRATION………………..
    perish the thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????

    ACORN should actively seek to ERADICATE LL who are breaching all appropriate regulations.

    Such LL are a scourge on legally compliant LL.

    I would suggest that the vast majority of criminal LL are are in diverse areas.

    ACORN should address these areas FIRST.

    VANS in these areas stating ILLEGAL immigrants

    GO HOME would be ENTIRELY appropriate!!!!

    Illegal tenants and LL are demonstrably an extreme detriment to LL LL.

    This lady LL was legally compliant.

    Why have ACORN wasted resources on pursuing a legally compliant LL!!!!!!!!!??????

    ACORN should get their act together and pursue the criminal LL most of whom do NOT have traditional British surnames

  6. Perfect illustration of these organisations that blindly want to present all tenants like angels and all landlords like demons. So caricatural! The world is not black or white. What’s worrying is the stubbornness of Mr Ballard who still believe they were right and always should be right. Shows how long the road to a more appeased and balanced PRS is going to be

  7. These type of tenants organisation have done this before in other places. Protest outside letting agency. We have laws to protect tenants, we need similar laws to protect landlords from abuse and harrasment. With Section 21 going, there needs a better way to end a tenancy with a toxic tenant.

    These proposed landlord registers should not be public, so it does not get into the hands of groups such as these groups.

    The funders of ACORN, should have been put up on criminal charges.

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