A landlord who won £100,000 in damages from tenants’ union ACORN has spoken of her fear at the group’s determined campaign of harassment which she believes was designed to ruin her.

Zobia Rafique, who rents rooms across Sheffield through her business, Century One Estates, thought she had come to an agreement with new tenant Aya Hoez, but it quickly turned nasty.

“The tenant said she didn’t want to move in after paying a £300 deposit in early December 2020, so I explained that the signed tenancy was legally binding,” Rafique tells LandlordZONE, adding that the Deposit Protection Service had ruled in her favour.

“When the tenant changed her mind, I offered to let her move in the following month, without having to pay any rent upfront.”

However, two days later, 40 people turned up outside Rafique’s house, banging on her door, including the tenant, who demanded her money back while someone else filmed the confrontation.

She refused the landlord’s offer to talk inside and the group dispersed before the police arrived. Comments were then posted across social media over the next four months, commenting on her cars and lifestyle.

“They talked to my neighbours and posted cards through their doors calling me a rogue landlord and also contacted some of my tenants,” ” she remembers.

“ACORN members even arranged viewings at my other properties, specifically asking for me to come alone, which I never did. It was so scary.

She was left waiting for the post each day in case her children saw any malicious post. The police were unable to prosecute because any harassment was carried out by different people, says Rafique, who then decided to launch civil proceedings, suing for harassment, defamation and breach of data rights.

Rafique believes the union was on a mission to ruin her. “I was lucky that I had the means and courage to fight for justice but I know some landlords wouldn’t be able to afford it,” she adds. “I was determined to stand up to them – and despite the stress, it was worth it.”


  1. This is why I am not in favour of public database of landlords. Information can be misused and abused.

    This is vigilante mob behaviour.

    It is n’t the first time these type of groups have done this, they will turn up heavy heanded at letting agents and causing disruption.

    Landlord need laws to protect from harassment and abuse from tenants. Including photos being posted on social media. This is needed especially if Section 21 is planned to go.

  2. This appears not to be an isolated case as ACORN Organising actually promote the fact that they do this, but as this is a test case all the landlords need to do is contact the same solicitors and take the same action against the same organisation.

    Nick Ballard, Head Organiser and founder at ACORN, has it set up as LTD company, so considering they couldn’t Crowdfund a £6k target I don’t know how they’re going to pay this or simply just close down the business!

    Apparently he pays himself and others a salary so hopefully he doesn’t just throw his employees out onto the street. His address is in the public domain but I’m sure others have the morals not to go round his house and gives him some of his own medicine.

  3. A judge ruling in a landlords favour on this? Its unheard of!

    Well done to this landlord and at last, common sense prevails, and finally tenants are asked to behave the same way landlords are expected to behave.

    If a landlord used the sort of tactics Acorn used, they would be jailed, its outrageous their allowed to operate.

  4. As Zobia mentions, defamation is extremely expensive litigation, so I am glad to hear that justice has been served.

    I understand how this landlord feels – being harassed and defamed is very distressing and disrupts your life.

    For 18 months, I experienced defamation and harassment by a property trainer, but I could not afford to take legal action.

    This individual wrote two blogs about me and also produced two videos where he told all sorts of lies. He was also involved in a malicious communications campaign against me, and also incited his followers to follow me around on social media and harass me.

    I retaliated to this and fact-checked his lies on social media, and now he’s issued harassment and defamation proceedings against ME, because he can afford to do so through selling expensive property training.

    You can read about my case here:


    I really hope the whole property community can get behind me and support me in this. In the absence of any form of formal regulation of wealth educators, public interest commentary is vital for consumer protection and people should be able to speak without the fear of being slapped with a defamation lawsuit.


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