Justice for black renters facing discrimination
Justice for black renters facing discrimination
My name is Christy, and I'm appealing for your support on a really important issue.
On 24th July 2019, I was evicted by my live-in landlord, having rented a room in Bristol for several months while collecting data for my PhD research in the local area. That's me in the picture above, bundled into the back of a police car and being driven away from the property with all my belongings.
Following a minor dispute the previous night which she unnecessarily escalated, the live-in landlord decided that she wanted me to pack my bags and leave the property immediately.
However, when I calmly highlighted that this is unlawful in an attempt to reason with her, she immediately called the police saying that my guest and I were trespassers, and made false allegations of us threatening her.
This is racial profiling.
There have been many similar instances of black and minority ethnic individuals having their presence in public and private spaces wrongly challenged - and criminalised - by white individuals, as seen in the recent cases of Lisa Alexander, Amy Cooper, Tom Austin, and even the Oxford Union. This is not at all surprising in the context of housing either; research by Shelter shows that more than 40% of landlords themselves admit to harbouring prejudiced and stereotypical views when dealing with renters.
When police officers from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary arrived armed with Tasers, they remained largely unconcerned about my reports of the landlord’s behaviour, yet automatically deemed me to be a threat. As a result, during the almost three-hour ordeal, they forced me into an unlawful eviction and repeatedly threatened me with arrest if I did not comply.
I was therefore made homeless, and needed to pay for an emergency Airbnb as I was still required to complete my research in Bristol but had nowhere else to go.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Although initially attempting to misrepresent their role in the incident, after complaints and appeals processes were finalised in December 2019 the Avon and Somerset Constabulary admitted the police officers' wrongdoing and lack of knowledge of the law, formally apologised, and declared a need for training.
However, they have made no effort to verify the landlord’s false allegations of threatening behaviour which had caused them to intervene in the first place (stating that it would amount to low-level public nuisance).
After asking Bristol City Council to start an investigation into the eviction several months after I reported it to them, and then waiting a further 7 months for the investigation to be completed, on 10th June 2020, Bristol City Council finally responded that they cannot take legal action against the landlord or the police for harassing me into homelessness. It is fair that the Council do not have the resources to prosecute all rogue landlords - after all, it is a publicly-funded service. However, the Council did not offer any support or signposting at all for 11 months, and still failed to see the clear racial profiling on the part of both the police officers and the landlord.
WE NEED ACTION!
The eviction itself - as well as institutional responses to it - left me traumatised and feeling deeply demoralised and insulted. I was temporarily made homeless through no fault of my own while trying to study for my PhD, and have so far been completely failed by our public institutions.
We absolutely cannot rule out the fact that race has played an implicit role in how I have been treated by the landlord, by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, and by Bristol City Council - despite Avon and Somerset Constabulary, in particular, publicly declaring their support for the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.
Homelessness amongst black people has risen 42% in recent years, compared to a 9% rise amongst white populations over the same period. One of the reasons for this is the (increasing) discrimination we face when renting in Bristol and across the UK - which can involve contact with various authorities. I’ve come across numerous, awful experiences that other black people have had which are often never reported. However, when we as black people actually report our experiences to authorities, we are most often not taken seriously.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for:
- a review into how (unlawful) eviction cases involving discrimination are being handled at Bristol City Council
- widespread training on tenancy law for all police officers at Avon & Somerset Police Constabulary
This is so that other individuals in my situation can be better supported.
Agree with this action? Sign this petition and - if you can - share it far and wide!
Thank you so much.