Two survivors of modern slavery and their two-year-old son have been supported to move into a new house after their former landlady tried to illegally evict them.
The couple, originally from Poland, are both formally identified as victims of human trafficking who were exploited for forced labour by the gang responsible for the largest modern slavery prosecution in UK history.
The couple moved to England five years ago on the promise of new employment opportunities after responding to a job advert on Facebook. On arrival, they were employed in a warehouse and at a hotel. They were promised a salary, which they never received in full because their trafficker pocketed it to pay off a ‘debt’. They were exploited for more than three years before finally being identified. You can read more about their story here.
Hope for Justice has been advocating for Leon*, aged in his 30s, and Amelia*, in her 20s, ever since. With help from a housing association, we were able to find them safe accommodation before they had their baby.
However, several months later, the housing association stopped managing the property when the landlady informed them she wanted to sell.
One of our Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs), who has been supporting the family, said: “It was supposed to be a smooth transition from one landlord to another while the couple and their son were still living there. Unfortunately, once the housing association stopped managing the property, the [new] landlady did not follow legal guidelines. She did not provide the correct paperwork, making the eviction invalid.”
The landlady served Amelia and Leon with a Section 21 Eviction Notice, starting the process to end the tenancy. Amelia and Leon searched for alternative accommodation but were unsuccessful as they were both unemployed and living on benefits. The couple applied for help from the local council but because they had received an illegal eviction, were told the local authority could not assist them.
Amelia and Leon received daily threats about having their locks changed and were harassed to move out of their home. They feared for their family’s safety. Our IMSA said: “The mum was afraid that the family would be turned out onto the streets. The possibility of this caused a huge amount of stress and fear, particularly as they had a young child.”
Hope for Justice contacted the council but did not receive any concrete advice in the event of the couple being forced to leave their home. So we contacted a legal firm who telephoned Amelia and Leon and gave them instructions as well as informing them of their rights.
Their IMSA from Hope for Justice also contacted the landlady to explain about the illegal eviction and request that she stop harassing the couple. We then contacted the police, who agreed to attend the property if the landlady changed the locks or used other force. Officers also agreed to contact the landlady.
“Thankfully the landlady listened,” said the IMSA, “and meanwhile we contacted a number of housing associations and local organisations to enquire about alternative suitable properties.”
Following our referral, a housing association has provided Leon, Amelia and their son with a safe property and they are now living in safety, without fear.
Both of the survivors reported their exploitation to the police, and Leon testified against the perpetrators in court, resulting in one of them being convicted and jailed. Sadly, the acquaintance fled from England and has not yet been brought to justice.
*Names and images changed to protect identity of the survivors
To find out more about the work of our Independent Modern Slavery Advocates, visit Partnership to help survivors of modern slavery get support (hopeforjustice.org).