Refugee fighting £2,850 claim in lettings agency dispute

Lawanya... left her rented room empty for six months and got bill for £2,850.

Lawanya... left her rented room empty for six months and got bill for £2,850. - Credit: Mike Brooke

A refugee is fighting a legal claim against her for £2,850 in a dispute with a letting agency.  

Lawanya Ramajeyam, a 32-year-old Tamil from Sri Lanka, was forced to leave the room in Stepney because of mounting legal costs of her asylum case.

“I would have stayed if I had thousands to spare, rather than having to go couch surfing,” she said. “I didn’t have the money, which is why I left. I don’t have it now.”  

Lawanya says she told City Rooms lettings firm she had vacated the property by email, but the agency says it has no record of the correspondence and is pursuing her for £2,850.   

Rally in Calvert Avenue to support Lawanya's -plight

Rally in Calvert Avenue to support Lawanya's -plight - Credit: Mike Brooke

Her plight was taken up at a Unite trade union rally in Shoreditch on Saturday (April 17), calling for renters' rights over issues like Lawanya’s case.

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Protesters marched from Arnold Circus to City Rooms' office in Stepney Green, where they delivered a letter calling for the debt to be cancelled. 

The case is due on June 11 at Edmonton County Court.

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"I offered to pay off £10 a week which is all I can afford," Lawanya told the East London Advertiser. "But this was rejected. We had agreed verbally to end the tenancy, then I sent an email on August 13 to confirm, but heard nothing back."

But the agency says it has no record of any notice to quit or her email.

A City Rooms spokesman said: “We don’t know that she has no money to pay us. Lawanya asked for a six-month tenancy extension.

"We didn’t look for a new tenant until it became clear (by January) that she didn’t want to stay. We're entitled to claim loss of rent as Lawanya signed a binding agreement to pay it.” 

Lawanya joins rally calling for end to Covid rent debt

Lawanya joins rally calling for end to Covid rent debt - Credit: Mike Brooke

Lawanya, who now has legal refugee status, joined Saturday's rally on rent issues as organiser for the Refugee Rights campaign.  

Rally organiser James Ivens said: “The money they're asking for can’t materialise. This case is a waste of the court’s time and is irrational to be pursuing it.” 

Rally organiser James Ivens (right)... "This case is a waste of the court’s time.” 

Rally organiser James Ivens (right)... "This case is a waste of the court’s time.” - Credit: Mike Brooke

One in seven private renters are in arrears in London, according to estimates by Citizens Advice, with the prospect of the government’s ban on evictions due to end on May 31. 

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