Category Archives: private landlords

Working class women face court fees as evictions keep rising

No time for your Housing issues, we have an election on…

This is what Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms said to Chantelle, when she visited him last week as a last resort in her struggle for decent long-term accommodation with her young son in Newham.

Three years ago, Chantelle and her two month old son, were placed by Newham Council, under the Bond Scheme, in private-rented accommodation. The flat has mice and cockroaches, damp, no loft insulation and intermittent problems with the boiler leaving Chantelle and her son with periods of no hot water or heating. Chantelle’s son is in a local nursery and has a place in the school for September 2017.

Out of the blue, in January 2017, Chantelle received a Section 21 Notice of Possession (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the legal eviction notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy). Frightened by the prospect of homelessness with her young son, Chantelle sought advice and Newham Council advised Chantelle to stay put, not to move out to stay with a family member as she would then be making herself intentionally homeless. She was advised to look for private accommodation in the two weeks that followed and when she was not successful, she was then advised by the housing office to go through with the eviction process and she was told she would not be liable for court fees.

However  outrageously Chantelle has been ordered to pay court costs of £355 to the landlord for this eviction and bailiff’s have been summoned to evict her, creating more stress and anxiety for Chantelle and her son.

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Chantelle’s case worker has said that once the bailiffs have come and Chantelle is on the streets she will be given emergency accommodation, but only out of London. The case worker said that unless a child is in their GCSE year, they are ‘expendable’ and will cope with being moved away from their family, friends and teachers.

Labour Mayor Robin Wales in his address to the Annual Council Meeting last month said that Newham ‘has real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’ and boasted that Newham has ‘amongst the best services in London’ and ‘doing more than other boroughs to get rid of rogue landlords’ and as housing reaches a crisis point, Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’.

The reality is that social cleansing continues, with people like Chantelle being forced out of borough and out of London, tearing them away from their family and support networks, their children’s schools and their jobs or job prospects. Meanwhile thousands of homes lie empty in the Newham, not least over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.

Chantelle will be at STRATFORD MAGISTRATE COURT 389-397 High Street E15 4SB Tuesday 6 June at 2pm. She should not be financially penalised. Chantelle knows that her struggle is the struggle of thousands of people across London. Focus E15 campaign will be there to support her when she requests an extension to stay in her current property and for the court costs to be waived. The struggle goes on to ensure that Chantelle and her young son are not moved out of Newham. 

Social housing! Not social cleansing!

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Refugee left on the streets by Newham Council + racist private landlords. Who can help Ibrahim now?

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Last Saturday on our street stall we met a refugee called Ibrahim. He wanted to tell us his story. This is what he said:

When I first got to London I was put into home office accommodation called NASS which is based in Newham. I stayed there from September 2014 – April 2015 whilst the Home Office decided if they would give me refugee status.  Once this status was granted, I was given 28 days to leave, open a bank account, find a home, etc. It took me a long time to open a bank account even though I had all the official documents and support from the Refugee Council.  This meant I could not get any benefits, so I was alone without money, without a job, no national insurance number and no roof over my head.

The Refugee Council gave me an official letter stating that I was completely homeless, and with this I went to Newham Council who told me to come back at 9 am the next day.  I made sure I slept rough close by that night, so I was first in line at the housing office in the morning, and I started queuing at 7am.  When they met me, they got me a translator and took down my story.  They took my contact details, gave me a ‘Housing Options’ letter which listed 3 hostels, and said they would be in touch.  I went to the hostels straight away, but they had no space for me, so I waited for the phone call from the council.

After 2 weeks, I wondered why no one had rang me.  It turns out at the previous meeting, the council had written my phone number down wrong. No one apologised to me for this.  They gave me another letter, but there was no translator present this time so I didn’t understand what it meant – my friend read it for me later and it said they acknowledged that I was street homeless, but that they would not offer me housing.  They told me to look for private accommodation.

My friend phoned one of the hostels up a few weeks ago on my behalf, and they said they had been trying to get in touch with me as a space had opened there, but because the council had not corrected the wrong phone number on their system, I never got the message.  I was told by the hostel that  if my friend hadn’t rang up that day I would be completely off their records.

I try to look for private accommodation, but it is a struggle as deposits are very high and many landlords don’t take DSS.  I got close to getting a room once but they heard my voice, and because I have trouble speaking English, they refused to go any further. To get private accommodation I have to save for a deposit, but it is hard to get a job when you are sleeping on the streets and have no address – people don’t employ you.  I also have to get an English speaking friend who has a ‘good accent’ to phone landlords, as they don’t accept me when I phone.

 I have now been street homeless for 5 months, with no end in sight.  I try and sleep during the day in a park near the Olympic stadium, and keep awake all night for safety.  When it rains I sleep in the police station.  I walk very far each day. I have to get to my college course and to work training courses.  I have no income aside from money the Refugee Council can afford to give me from their petty cash – sometimes £10 a week, sometimes £20.  I struggle as I have to top my phone up a lot to call landlords, so don’t eat much.  I try to stay clean and well dressed to get a job, and wash in the local Mosque, which they allow as I am Muslim.

Focus E15 campaign stands with Ibrahim in his fight for housing. Many refugees face escalated difficulties and racism and get very little support from anyone. Currently Ibrahim sleeps on the streets near the Olympic Park whilst homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate, and many other places around London.  It is unacceptable for any Council to fail to support the most vulnerable in their borough, including refugees.
Ibrahim’s  words were translated for us by the Asylum Clinic, who we met with Ibrahim whilst they passed our stall, after getting basic supplies for their clinic to help Refugees.
 
Please share Ibrahim’s story on Facebook and twitter. Tweet and demand action from Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon