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The deacon who evicted her tenants before Christmas to make way for a community house

Love Bristol, a charity that will be taking over the property to run a ‘community house’, says it had ‘sympathy’ for the tenants, but insists its ‘charitable mandate is to focus on vulnerable people’.

Photos: Izzy de Wattripont

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“I’m exhausted – exhausted from two months of having to negotiate with people who don’t seem to care, exhausted from spending two months searching for a room, exhausted from realising my position in life.”

Scarlett’s eviction from her former home in Montpelier came totally out of the blue. “There’s so many layers of shock,” she says. “It’s like someone’s pulling the rug out from underneath you.”

The landlady had served Scarlett, a 26-year-old early years educator and her housemates a no-fault eviction notice – the notorious legislation that allows landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason.

The landlady Rachel Beere, a deacon in the diocese of Gloucester, served the notice on 2 October. She had asked a local charity, Love Bristol, if they would manage the property on her behalf if she turned it into a community house for vulnerable people.

The tenants had two months to vacate the property, or else face court action and forced removal by bailiffs.

They were complicit in my eviction. It felt like a nightmare.

Tommy

With Bristol’s rental market being so competitive, the houseshare of four young women faced being homeless at Christmas. They presented themselves as homeless to Bristol City Council.

“We were shocked and distraught,” Scarlett says. “My job is full on. It was exhausting coming home from work, looking up all this legal stuff to find out what our rights are and then coming to the realisation that we didn’t really have any.”

But something didn’t quite add up. The tenants and landlady had got on well up to that point, as Beere acknowledged in the eviction notice. “You have all been really good tenants, and I am sorry to ask you to leave.”

The housemates also found it strange that Beere was being so vague, as she didn’t mention the name of the charity in the eviction notice. “She had asked a local charity to oversee the management of the property,” says Scarlett. “Why exactly couldn’t we carry on living there?”

‘It felt like a nightmare’

Tommy, 32, says Love Bristol were complicit with her eviction.

The tenants contacted Beere to explain their situation. “We had hoped her decision had been made without an awareness of the wider context of the Bristol rental market,” explains Tommy, 32, Scarlett’s former housemate who works supporting students in higher education.

The tenants say they respected Beere’s decision because she could dispose of her property as she wished and besides it might be needed to accommodate the homeless. But they felt they needed more time.

But they say the landlord wouldn’t budge. “She told us she had already signed a contract for a new house and had people ready to move in on the day after our tenancy ended,” Tommy says.

The tenants say Beere explained that she was handing the management of the property over to Love Bristol, a charity-church based in Stokes Croft. 

While failing to mention Love Bristol by name in the section 21 notice, Beere says she had known the charity for years and that she liked their work. Love Bristol is involved in various community projects and does important humanitarian work in Ukraine.

With the clock ticking, the tenants approached the church for help. On 9 October, Tommy, and a housemate say they attended a Love Bristol service. “I cried all the way through it and when talking to them,” she says.

A member of Love Bristol’s congregation present allegedly said they would pray for the two of them. “They were complicit in my eviction,” Tommy says. “It felt like a nightmare.” 

Love Bristol has confirmed Beere approached them about turning the property into a community house, but strongly denies any involvement in the eviction process.

Increasingly desperate, the tenants even asked the bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, of whose church Beere is a member. The Archdeacon of Cheltenham Phil Andrew expressed sympathy but ultimately declined on the basis that this was Beere’s personal business.

‘Our charitable mandate is to focus on vulnerable people’

The tenants say they next heard from Love Bristol at the end of October. They insisted they couldn’t help, saying they had merely been asked by Beere if they would be willing for the property to become part of their community house network.

But one local says this argument doesn’t wash. “I understand people’s tenancies sometimes have to be ended, due to a landlord’s changing circumstances,” says Elaine Williams, who lives locally on Richmond Road.

“But it seems to me the landlady’s evicting people on a whim with the minimum legal notice. It is perfectly legal, just absolutely immoral.

“As for Love Bristol, there was lots they could have done to ameliorate the situation,” Elaine says. “They could have suggested the landlady give the tenants more notice. They could have had the tenants pay rent to them for a few months to make the notice period longer.”

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The Cable asked Love Bristol whether the tenants had asked it for help. It said it had explained to them it had “sympathy”, “but to be clear our charitable mandate is to focus on vulnerable people.”

According to the Charity Commission website, Love Bristol’s objects include “to relieve those in poverty or need (whether by reason of ill-health, disability, age or other social or economic disadvantage)” in Stokes Croft in particular.

Elaine adds: “I don’t think Love Bristol should be pretending they’re all about the community, when actually they could’ve done something [to help] and they didn’t.”

‘This could have upended my life’

Scarlett, 26, said the eviction left her “shocked and distraught”.

One of the most difficult things to process for the tenants was how Love Bristol seemed to downplay the housing crisis, saying it was challenging to find a place to live in Bristol “but not impossible”.

“I felt gaslighted,” Scarlett says. “We were all devastated and Love Bristol were like, ‘it’s not a big deal.’”

Although all of the tenants have found somewhere else to live, Scarlett and Tommy say their new accommodation isn’t permanent or secure. One of them is lodging temporarily while another is in a shared house which they say is out of their budget. Scarlett says the new tenants moved into the Montpelier house on 5 December.

For Scarlett, the experience has underlined how precarious life is for renters in Bristol. “I have a career I’m passionate about, I’ve graduated, I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to. Yet this could have upended my life.”

Love Bristol urged perspective, highlighting the problems people face in Ukraine where it’s doing humanitarian work were far greater than the situation faced by the tenants. 

“We’ve got a million and half people in Odessa that have got no power,” said a trustee. “Yes, it’s sad that someone has to look around for a new place to live and they might have to move out of BS6. But it’s not the end of the world. If it was a vulnerable person, I’d have a different perspective on it.”

The Cable has asked Rachel Beere if she recognises the tenants’ account of events or concerns.

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  • She’s getting guaranteed rent and taking passive income. Very lucrative business for these types of landlords

    Reply

  • Pffft, we all do our bit for the ukraine, but what in the world are we coming to when we make our own people homeless. All in the name if the church, I am starting to lose faith in the church surely jesus would turf out tenants make them homeless just to accommodate someone they deemed more in need

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  • pretty disappointed by this article and its title. It’s a non story as far as I can see. what’s with all the emotive ‘evicted just before Christmas’ when all of those involved have found somewhere else to live?
    The landlady wants to do something generous and life changing for vulnerable people. Love Bristol house single parents, asylum seekers, victims of domestic violence, people recovering from addiction. Why not cover their story rather than presenting as victims some young professionals/students who are outraged that they have to find somewhere to move to (and they all have).

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  • Just to clarify, the new tenants in the house were already residents in Bristol with a secure tenancy that they gave up to join the house, plus their sister who moved in from Cardiff. They weren’t housing Ukrainian refugees there… they just wanted us non church members out

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  • I’m a Christian,and although the Deacon was within her rights,what on earth was she thinking,giving people whose home it was,without talking with them,the heaveho just before Christmas. This is usually the trick of unscrupulous landlords,not a minister of a church that preaches the opposite.
    Using a no fault eviction is the lowest,so you make people insecure and homeless,swapping them with people who are insecure,and homeless it almost Kafkaesque.
    What kind of a country do we live in that makes people forever anxious about where they live? This is an echo of a Dickensian novel,and the 19th century poor laws.
    While I understand the need to house homeless people,you should not be using unfair laws,to obtain your aim. Instead the charity this is for should be banging on at Bristol council,and mayor to have a purpose built home for those that need it.
    Anyone who is being made homeless,is then vulnerable,with all the mental health issues that go with it.What is being done is wrong no matter how you look at it,and no amount of wringing of the hands will make it right. We should all have a right to feel secure within our homes,and to not feel the lash of a no fault eviction.Greedy landlords I can understand,they just worship Mammon,as the church of England is one of the largest land owners in this country,and has riches stored it could easily find a house for the people who need it,or give a gift to the charity that needed it.
    Although this is now a fait accompli I hope the Deacon will pray upon what has occurred,because she has set,one group of people against another,when as Christians we should be looking after all that ask for help. Instead of putting our energies into doing what has happened,the deacon should have been doorstepping local councillors,the mayor,the press into shaming them into action. Also talking against this government’s atrocious record of the non building of social housing,and it’s abdication of responsibly towards those who need homing.
    May I wish all your readers a peaceful Christmas and a better New Year. Cos this one,except for those rolling in cash,has been crap.

    Reply

  • By displacing these people, doesnt that in fact make them vulnerable, i.e Homeless? Evicted with bare minimum notice in winter? It all sounds pretty shady. Maybe legal but justifiably immoral.

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  • Isn’t this the evangelical church movement associated with our Rt Reverend Marvin Rees?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong. The anti-gay, anti-abortion, American crusade.

    Reply

    • The sort of rubbish that inflames hostilities between our own and immigrants.

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    • I firstly would like to ask is the deacon making money out of this situation, (more money then her previous tenants were contributing?) also secondly,’ Love Bristol’ appears to involve itself in Ukraine, and the plite of the people, But not a word about weapons of destruction being pummelled into Ukraine, which only escalates the Proxy War of the west. It is easy to give lip service in how one is helping the vulnerable, and Ukrainian people, so the tenants, and the Ukrainian people are just collateral damage.

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  • I’m disgusted with the charity. To then finally make out it wasn’t a big deal and to discredit their struggles to compare with Ukraine is disgusting. Thought a charity for Bristol was meant to help Bristolians facing difficulties not dismiss those in favour of only trying to help those abroad.

    Reply

  • It’s disruptive, sure. Making them “homeless for Xmas” is a bit emotive, they were given notice in October!

    They were given 2 months notice as per the contract they signed. If they had wanted to leave themselves they would only have had to give a months notice.

    I’ve been renting privately for 30 years and part of the problem is that landlords are terrified that people who rent their houses will refuse to move out when it’s time to leave. It doesn’t help that the council tell tenants to refuse to leave the property when their tenancy ends

    They signed a contract and it sounds like the landlord honoured the contract. She never promised them housing for life (or until they got a better offer)

    I have had landlords selling the property and had to move several times. This isn’t that different.

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  • And you can guarantee, that the new tenants moving in will be charged the maximum LHA rate, as a way for “Love Bristol” to maximise their profit margins – I say this because like Emmaus, and these other ‘Christian’ charities, they like to “support” vulnerable people by having them claim as much UC as possible, before then skimming as much as they can from it by charging the maximum rent rate possible as per LHA. It’s just yet another face of profiteering.

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  • Plenty of Apartments available dirt cheap in ……….. Mariupol !

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  • Tenants that are given short notice to leave their home are also vulnerable,any renter is in reality unless in social housing vulnerable…What would J.C have said I wonder .There appears t be no compassion ,evicting people ,they become vulnerable,and replacing them with people defined by the charity as vulnerable.

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  • Wow. The very idea that they get to decide who is and isn’t vulnerable when being evicted!

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  • Anyone one who uses the appalling no- fault eviction notices is an immoral person. There was no reason for these people to evict these people in such a fashion.
    It is hardly surprising ,” christianity” is a dying religion with this attitude.

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  • I hate how landlords can do no fault evictions it made me almost homeless in 2020 where I had to panic move into a house that wasn’t fit for me. Renting at the moment is incredibly hard. People on jobs under 30k have real difficulty in securing a safe home to rent. It seems in 2023 there are more squatters rights than there are renters rights

    Reply

  • Hypocrisy , pious platitudes , ruthlessness . Is anyone really surprised a Church acts like this ?

    Reply

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