Old law, new law, same old story

Approaching the council has become a menace to my life. Old law, new law, none of them is favourable to me. Instead of the council helping, they’ve just been dodgy, not sincere in their comments. It makes it difficult for me and my family.  Now they say that I’m top of the list, but without any communication, without getting anything, I still don’t know how they want to help. The council should look into my case and do justice to it.’ – H

Our member H has been struggling all year to make Haringey Council take on her homelessness case. She told them in February that she and her children could not bear to go on living any longer in their overcrowded accommodation. But, 5 months later, H is still waiting for the council to offer her any concrete assistance. H’s children are starting their school holidays in the same overcrowded flat– when the new term starts, will they be going home to a suitable home at last?

Handmade black and white print depicting a house with 'Share Home' written on it and a hand with 'Home' written on it.H had to fight even to get a housing appointment. After chasing her caseworker for months, she finally discovered that they had closed her case, then opened a fresh case under the new Homelessness Reduction Act. They claimed that H had ‘failed to communicate’ because she, allegedly, did not receive one voice message. Yet the council never even informed H that they were closing her case. She only found out months later, after she insisted on seeing her caseworker face-to-face.

H’s caseworker has even acknowledged that H’s current accommodation is ‘unreasonable to occupy’. This is the legal definition of homelessness! Yet the council seem happy to keep H and her children waiting in their ‘unreasonable’ accommodation with no end in sight.

Over the past months, H’s case has been mishandled so often that it’s hard to summarise, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Mid-February: H informed the council that she was severely overcrowded. She explained that it was affecting her family’s health, education and wellbeing, and asked to be given a homelessness appointment. However, Customer Services refused, saying that she was ‘clearly not homeless’. When H and her supporters insisted, she was eventually referred to the council’s in-house Shelter adviser to ‘see if you need to have a homelessness appointment or not’.
  • After 1 month: After pressure from HHAG, H was finally given a homelessness appoinrment with a housing caseworker, who said she would contact H soon to arrange a home visit.
  • After 2 ½ months: After numerous attempts to contact her caseworker by phone and email, H tried to make enquiries in person at the (appointment-only) housing office. She was told that the caseworker would call her, but she never received any such call.
  • After 3 months: H sent another email and made another attempt to visit the housing office. HHAG also submitted a group letter to the caseworker…still no response.
  • After 3 ½ months: H submitted a formal complaint. In the following week, she finallyreceived a home visit from a council officer. After waiting for months, the visit lasted all of 5 minutes.
  • After 4 months: H made another attempt to visit the housing office, and managed to pass on a message. The next day, her caseworker finally called and stated that H was not homeless, but that the council would assist her through their find-your-own scheme. H emailed to ask for an explanation and a decision letter on her homelessness case. She didn’t get a response.
  • After 4 ½ months: H tried to make an appointment via Customer Services, but was refused. She and supporters from HHAG went to the housing office and demanded to see the caseworker. We weren’t allowed in, but H was eventually given an appointment.

On 3rd July, H finally met her caseworker face-to-face for the first time since March.

She discovered that:

-  her original case had been closed in April, because she had allegedly failed to respond to a phone message (which she never received). The council had never mentioned this before.

-  the council then opened a fresh case at the start of May, under the new Homelessness Reduction Act. Again, they told her nothing about this.

-  they had decided that she was ‘threatened with homelessness’ under the new law. Once again, nobody had ever mentioned this to H before.

How can somebody say she closed a case without even communicating with the person she’s dealing with? I abided by her rules, but she didn’t abide by them, and then she blamed me for not communicating.

Handmade blue and white engraved print depicting a rabbit holding a placard with a house on it.Officially, H is now ‘threatened with homelessness’ – this is defined as ‘likely to become homeless within 56 days’. Are the council going to find her a new home before this time is up?

In fact, though her caseworker insists that H is not currently homeless, she has also described H’s flat as ‘unreasonable to occupy’.  If the council agree that she can’t be expected to stay, how much longer will they leave her living there?

H’s caseworker has claimed that H is ‘top of the list for a 3-bed’ but what does this really mean? She’s waited 5 months – how much longer will she have to wait?

Do Haringey Council really plan to find H a new home, or are they just making empty gestures? What exactly are they doing right now to help her? H wants to be sure that, when the new term starts, her children will be starting afresh in a decent home.

To find out more about our next steps to protest H’s mistreatment, follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or sign up for our announcements mailing list.

July 23, 2018  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS  Comments Closed

New homelessness law: who will it help?

On 3rd April 2018, a new law on homelessness came into effect in England. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2018 is supposed to offer more help to homeless people who are not considered ‘priority need’. Under the previous law, single people without dependent children were usually not entitled to any help.

We know that under the previous law, even people who were entitled to help were frequently turned away and denied their rights. (This is often known as ‘gatekeeping’.) Will the council really use the new law to help people, or will they just put more barriers in everyone’s way?

HHAG would like to know people’s experiences under the new law. If you have approached the council since 3rd April, what kind of support did they give you? We invite you to share your experiences: come to one of our meetings, or contact us on Twitter, Facebook or by email.

If you want to learn more about your rights under the new law, Shelter have more information about what the council should do when you approach them.

April 11, 2018  Tags: , ,   Posted in: INFORMATION, NEWS  Comments Closed

Property licensing: who benefits?

Haringey Council say that ‘good quality housing is a basic right of every resident’. They say they’ve found a solution which will make life better for everyone, tenants and landlords alike – property licensing. However, our member S has had a very different experience. As the council consult on whether they should expand their licensing scheme, S’s story raises questions about how a scheme like this really benefits tenants. Who is it for? Who has the power? And will it ever help S to get what she needs?

When S first came to our meeting, she told us about the conditions in which she and her child were being forced to live. After becoming homeless, they were placed in a flat in Haringey as temporary accommodation, but quickly discovered that it was riddled with problems. The walls were constantly damp and mouldy. The property was also extremely cold, dark, invaded by rats, and smelled bad. By chance, HHAG had already met the previous tenant, who had received an offer of alternative accommodation while we were still struggling to make the landlord improve conditions. As soon as S mentioned her address, we knew that we were dealing with a property which had some major unresolved issues.

picture of the mould on a wall

mould on S’s wall

When S told us that Property Licensing were inspecting the flat, we hoped that this could be the start of some real progress. S lives in an area of Tottenham where the council already operate a licensing scheme: this covers all ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation’. When they grant a licence, the council can order works to be carried out to improve the standards of the property.

Yet, more than a year since the first inspection took place, S’s living situation still hasn’t improved. Since the licence was granted, the landlord has made some small repairs and amendments. But adding a couple of vents hasn’t fixed the damp, and bleach won’t do anything to address the cause of the mould. Over the past year, they’ve bleached the wall twice, but mould is already growing back again. S’s child, who has asthma, is still living in conditions that put her health at risk.

‘They’re prioritising the landlord and the building rather than the humans who live in it.’

The problems with the house go much deeper than the licensing scheme seems willing to address. To maximise profits, the landlord has crammed four flats into one small terraced house, leaving the tenants in poky rooms with no adequate ventilation or natural light. Yet S is the one who’s been criticised for failing to air it properly (although there’s one window in her entire flat), or to heat it adequately (though the walls don’t retain heat even with the heating turned up to maximum). Read the rest of this post »

February 20, 2018  Tags: , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS  Comments Closed

Join our protest, 10 Oct: Haringey Council, rehouse Z now!

Still waiting for Homes4Haringey - sign on railingJoin us in Wood Green on Tuesday to support our member Z, and to challenge Haringey Council’s callous treatment of tenants facing eviction.

Protest Tuesday 10 October, 12.30pm
outside Haringey’s housing office – 48 Station Road, London N22 7TY. (1 minute walk from Wood Green tube.)

Z and her family have been facing harassment from her landlord for months. He has physically threatened the family and tried to deprive them of heating. He enters the house unannounced, so Z can never feel safe at home.

The landlord has made it clear that he’s doing this because he is too impatient to wait until the end of the legal eviction process. There is no way for Z to stop the eviction – the landlord has already secured the legal right to the property. Yet Haringey Council* insist that she must stay there until the bailiffs come, even though she’s in danger. Read the rest of this post »

October 8, 2017  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS, PRIVATE TENANTS  Comments Closed

The waiting game: six weeks struggling against gatekeeping

Our member L, a mother of four, is due to be evicted this Monday, 3rd July. She first approached Haringey Council more than five weeks ago, but they have only just confirmed that they will provide emergency housing for Monday night.

Like most councils, Haringey is known for diverting people away from making a homeless application, to reduce homeless figures and meet central government targets. This is often called ‘gatekeeping’. One tactic they use is to tell people who are being evicted to stay in the property until the bailiffs arrive. This goes against even the government’s own official guidance. But the council keeps people waiting until the last possible minute, hoping that tenants will find alternative accommodation.

Moving house is difficult in any circumstances, but Haringey Council have made the situation far worse for L and her family. She has spent so much time and energy over the last month, fighting to get even this far, and she still does not know where she will be sleeping on Monday.

I’m less stressed than I was, but still stressed. If we didn’t go to the council all these times, they might have left me to wait until after the eviction on Monday. At least now I know they will have something for me. But if they’d seen me last week, maybe now I would already know where I will go.

It’s important to know your rights. It’s easy to be discouraged, and that’s what they want, but don’t give up. And it’s very very important to have someone with you. Alone, I think I would still be waiting to hear anything.’ Read the rest of this post »

June 30, 2017  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS  Comments Closed

Letting agents and the Localism Act

Four women from Haringey Housing Action Group on the steps beside a sign for Grangeview Estates

HHAG members delivering our letter to Grangeview Estates

After going through the stress of becoming homeless, everyone ought to end up somewhere safe and secure. However, Haringey Council forced our member A into a private tenancy where she has spent months struggling to get repairs done, living in conditions that are affecting her children’s health.

Until a few years ago, eligible homeless people who had been accepted as ‘priority need’ were able to stay in temporary accommodation until permanent social housing became available. However, in 2011 the Localism Act was passed, allowing councils to place people in private tenancies instead. This means that homeless families could easily become homeless again if the landlord decides to evict them. The law says that the accommodation should at least be ‘suitable’ – but this was certainly not the case for A.

Haringey Council accepted a duty to house A and her two young children after their eviction, but decided to place A in a private tenancy with Grangeview Estates. She was given no choice but to accept this. She soon discovered, though, that her new flat was in a worrying state of disrepair. Problems included:

-         No hot water for washing

-         Inadequate heating

-         Leaking ceiling and toilet floor

-         No ventilation

-         Damp, mould and rotting woodwork

-         Insect infestation

The letting agent did not respond when A reported her concerns, so she asked the council for help. She was told that repairs would be carried out within 21 days. This was in September. Since then, they have done nothing except paint over the mould.

When A joined our group, we delivered a letter to Grangeview Estates asking for the repairs to be done immediately. We asked them to reply within three working days, but two weeks later, A has still heard nothing. When we spoke to them, the agents claimed they had already done all the repairs needed, but they haven’t even responded to A’s request for a list of works done.

Over the past three months, A has also repeatedly tried to contact Haringey’s environmental health team. Last week, they finally carried out an inspection of the flat and have said they may issue a formal improvement notice if the agents do not act within 14 days. However, it would take months for this to be enforced.

A has already been waiting for months. She writes:

According to my personal opinion, I cannot live in this poor condition of my property which isn’t being repaired for a long time and just advised to “Wait”.  Due to the poor condition of my property it is impacting on my children’s health.  They are suffering from certain health problems such as eczema(worse), asthma and not adequately heating etc. Social worker, health visitor, school nurse and GP provided the suitable evidence to the council but unfortunately it’s pointless, because I don’t know why I have to be wait for a long time to get this repair done.  Why council been neglecting and no take any further action?  Agents are also ignoring to get the repairs done. I don’t know why they give such a bad condition of these properties to the council when tenant aren’t satisfied with the agents behaviour. However, this property isn’t suitable for us. I am personally not satisfied how they are treating me.

Grangeview Estates assure their commercial customers that they will be ‘safe in Grangeview’s hands’. We believe that people placed with them by the council are just as entitled to safe and suitable accommodation. Grangeview must commit to carrying out the repairs, or move A to a different property.

December 19, 2016  Tags: , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS, PRIVATE TENANTS  Comments Closed

Protest with Boundary House Residents against Theori Housing (Fri Oct 28)!

Boundary House ResidentsBoundary House residents and Focus E15 group are asking for support this Friday, when they will be leading a protest outside Theori offices in Leyton.

The residents have been placed in Boundary House by Waltham Forest council, and Theori Housing manage the letting.  The hostel is over 30 miles away from Waltham Forest, and the residents have complained at the slumlike conditions there.

Members of Haringey Housing Action Group also have experience of poor hostel accommodation, provided by Haringey Council, and we know how hard it is try to go about your daily activities – going to work, taking kids to school – when you are living in cramped conditions, with little or no cooking facilities.  But having a 30-mile journey to make every day, on a low income, would make it almost impossible to do anything but the most basic activities. Read the rest of this post »

October 27, 2016  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS  Comments Closed

Gatekeeping at the housing office

housing action successGatekeeping is the term used to describe the practice of councils turning homeless people away when they request help.  This practice is unlawful, but we hear examples of it happening every time we leaflet outside the housing office.

Our sister group Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) has been campaigning against gatekeeping at their local housing Office.  They have prepared a Pledge to End Gatekeeping and Disrespect at Southwark housing office.

Every local authority is different, and while we don’t have exactly the same experience of gatekeeping as HASL, we have certainly encountered gatekeeping at Haringey Council and other local authorities. Read the rest of this post »

August 26, 2016  Tags:   Posted in: INFORMATION  Comments Closed

Northumberland Park Decides

Northumberland Park estate

 

Tenants and residents at Northumberland Park are meeting up to discuss privatisation and demolition plans affecting as many as 1,900 homes.

Haringey Council wants to sell the estate, without a ballot of residents, to a new joint venture company which would aim to make a 20% profit on the new homes that it would build.

Northumberland Park Decides was launched by a group of residents from the estate and other campaigners from around Haringey. The group is meeting on a monthly basis then contact Haringey Defend Council Housing.

 

August 12, 2016  Tags: ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS  Comments Closed

Broadwater Farm Area estates ‘red-zone’ threat: support the community campaign

Haringey Housing Action Group supports the efforts of local residents who are trying to defend and improve their housing situation in the face of “regeneration” threats.  Below is  a callout from community groups on Broadwater Farm about an upcoming meeting and their request for support.

Object now! Public Meeting Wed 24th Feb!

From: Broadwater Farm Residents’ Association, Broadwater United Sports And Football Academy, Broadwater Farm Enterprise Centre, Somerset Close residents group, Lordship Lane petitioners, Moira Close petitioners, Back 2 Earth @ BWF Community Centre, Friends of Lordship Rec, Rockstone Foundation

Broadwater Farm Area estates under ‘red-zone’ threat

LORDSHIP REC SAVED! LET’S CONTINUE TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER!

DEFEND OUR LOCAL ESTATES

DURDURUN BROADWATER FARM’IN YIKILMASINI.

Object now to shocking ‘second stage’ proposals by the Council which could lead to future blight, demolition and ‘redevelopment’ of parts or all of Broadwater Farm, Somerset Close, Lido Square, Moira Close, the Broadwater Farm Community Centre, and nearby homes along Lordship Lane. The official ‘consultation’ is on until March 4th – please support the local residents’ campaign…

Public Meeting @ Broadwater Farm Community Centre Read the rest of this post »

February 5, 2016  Tags: , ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS, NEWS  Comments Closed