Property licencing: 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 license, 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 license 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).

In their consultation proposals, Haringey are keen to reassure landlords that they will benefit from an expansion of the licensing scheme. A few ‘rogue’ landlords will be punished, but ‘good’ landlords with be rewarded with an improved reputation (which, of course, will give them an excuse for charging higher rents…) Based on S’s experience, it doesn’t look like landlords have much to fear. When Property Licensing first visited her flat, the Tottenham scheme had already been running for two and a half years, while the previous tenant was struggling with disrepair. In theory, a landlord who failed to apply for a license promptly could have been fined, ordered to repay rent, or even forced to give up the management of the property. But S’s landlord faced no such consequences. If they’re so eager to keep landlords on side, will property licensing ever do more than request a few small changes which do nothing to address the underlying issues?

It’s my home, I’m the one who has to live there, but they say it’s not my business.’

Haringey argue that licensing does help tenants who fear that their landlord will evict them if they complain about disrepair. Rather than waiting for a complaint, the council say they will take responsibility for inspecting all properties, so that the tenant can’t be blamed. However, in S’s experience, this seems to mean that the tenant has been completely removed from the equation. Rather than supporting her to raise her concerns safely, Property Licensing have acted if she has no right to be informed about her own home.

When the license was granted, Haringey Council gave the landlord and letting agent a list of works to be completed. The council have repeatedly refused to give S access to this, depriving her of the information she needs in order to chase up undone works. S’s situation is confusing at the best of times: her accommodation is managed by a letting agency which has carried out some minor works, but they say that others are the direct responsibility of the landlord. Though the property is in Haringey, she was placed there as temporary accommodation by Enfield. If she’d been fully informed about the property licensing assessment, she could have used this information to hold all these people accountable. Instead, Property Licensing are going over her head to talk to them.

What’s more, Property Licensing themselves have made it clear that they don’t want to listen to what S has to say. Since they won’t even give her the details of their current assessment, she has had no opportunity to give feedback, ask questions and raise concerns about issues that haven’t been addressed. When S tried to query the inappropriate use of bleach to treat the mouldy walls, she was treated as if she was too ignorant to understand. When she suggested that the underlying causes of the damp needed more investigation, the officer dismissed this without even explaining why he disagreed. When she asked for an explanation of instructions given to the letting agent, she was accused of non-cooperation. They’ve ignored our letters, and complained about HHAG members being present to support S during inspections of her own home.

In their consultation documents, Haringey Council are very concerned to ensure that landlords police and monitor ‘antisocial behaviour’ by their tenants. They’ve put a lot of emphasis on all the ways in which tenants could be a problem. But when tenants like S are trying to call landlords to account for their own bad behaviour, the scheme stands in their way. Haringey may say that they want to protect tenants, but it’s striking that they don’t say anything about empowering them. In S’s case, it seems like their approach has been to silence her, blame her and try to keep her powerless.

For S, the failure to centre tenants has been disappointing and frustrating. For others, the consequences could be far more severe. Tenants don’t have a choice about whether or not a property licensing inspection takes place – the council say that this will protect some tenants from revenge eviction, but will it put others at risk? If tenants are evicted in order to meet the overcrowding standards, where will they go? If they don’t have a secure immigration status, will they be safe? In Newham, where a property licensing scheme has been in operation for the past 5 years, the council report that they’ve worked alongside ICE to arrest 547 people for immigration offences. Given Haringey’s track record of working with the Home Office to deport rough sleepers, can we trust them to put residents’ safety first?

If they want to show that their new scheme will benefit all tenants, Haringey have a lot of questions to answer. But before they think of expanding the scheme, our first question is: how will they support S to get the ‘good quality housing’ which is her ‘basic right’?

We’re holding our own consultation at 10 Station Road, Wood Green, 9.30-11am on Wednesday 21st February.
Come and support our member to present her feedback, and share your own experiences!

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.’


This is the full story of L’s long and frustrating struggle with the council.

After L’s housing benefit was stopped two months ago, her landlord decided to enforce a suspended possession order on the flat.

  • Six weeks before the eviction date:

L received a court document giving the landlord permission to issue an eviction warrant. She immediately took this to Customer Services. At first, they refused to book an appointment with a housing advisor until she had seen an outreach worker from Shelter. When she arrived for this, she was told that the Shelter worker had already left for the day.

After waiting to be seen again by Customer Services, L was eventually given an appointment with a housing advisor for a date three weeks later.

  • Three weeks before the eviction date:

L received the eviction notice. She immediately took this to Customer Services, where she was criticised for ‘not informing the council of her eviction earlier’. They sent her to a housing advisor.

The advisor told L that he could not refer her to the homelessness team until he had finished negotiating with the landlord. L had already tried to persuade the landlord to stop the eviction. She showed the advisor messages in which the landlord made it clear that he wanted her gone because she had complained about disrepair. However, the advisor contacted the landlord and offered him a bribe of £2,500. He encouraged the landlord to take his time thinking the offer over.

L suggested that the council could begin assessing her homelessness case while they waited for the landlord’s response. The law says that if someone is likely to be homelessness within 28 days, the council should make enquiries about their eligibility and whether they have a duty to house them. But the advisor said this was impossible.

L said she was worried that her case would not be referred before the eviction date. The advisor told her not to worry, there was plenty of time left…

  • Two weeks before the eviction date:

L had not received any updates from the housing advisor and he had not replied to her calls. HHAG members went with her to hand in a letter of support from the group, asking the council to confirm the emergency housing by the following week. We had no response.

  • Ten days before the eviction date:

L finally received a message from the advisor saying that the landlord had refused to stop the eviction, and he would refer her to Housing Solutions.

  • One week before the eviction date:

L had not heard anything from Housing Solutions. She and a couple of other HHAG members managed to get past security and talk to a receptionist in the housing office. The receptionist contacted the housing advisor and asked him to phone L that day, but he didn’t.

  • Six days – four working days- before the eviction date:

L and a couple of supporters went back to the housing office, but were not allowed through the door. She went back to Customer Services and managed to get a ‘triage’ letter, giving her permission to enter the office.

After several hours’ wait, a triage worker finally gave her the name of her Housing Solutions caseworker. L was told that the caseworker was busy, but would phone her the following day. We asked if they could just check the calendar and confirm an appointment time now, but were abruptly refused.

  • Three working days before the eviction date:

L did not hear from the Housing Solutions caseworker. She tried to call, but discovered that she had been given an invalid telephone number.

  • Two working days before the eviction date:

L went back to the housing office to ask about the phone number. The security guard went to check it. By luck, the caseworker happened to be nearby and called L in to talk to her. She finally confirmed that L would be given emergency accommodation on Monday. But L is still waiting to hear where this will be.






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




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

Gatekeeping at Haringey Council

We recently supported one of our members, M, who faced gatekeeping from Haringey Council when she attempted to apply as homeless. This was not a one-off incident. Our previous experiences show that the council consistently fails to do its duty, and the comments made to M by a housing officer confirm this. We’re calling on Haringey Council to stop its unlawful gatekeeping practices.

M first reported her homelessness in July, and was moved back and forth between advisers. She told them she was due to be evicted in October, that she couldn’t afford a deposit for a new home, and that she is vulnerable because of her physical health. This should have given the council reason to believe M was homeless, meaning that they had a duty to offer her a homelessness assessment. At the very least, if they refused to do so, they should have given her a S.184 letter explaining why. Read the rest of this post »

November 28, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS, INFORMATION  Comments Closed

Haringey Council to evict a woman and her 14-year-old daughter

M is a Haringey resident.  She is due to be evicted by the council this Tuesday (10 November).   When she came to our meeting last week, she told us that the council want to evict her because of rent arrears, despite the fact that she has already put a plan in place to pay her arrears off, and has been steadily paying them off since earlier this year.

Because M made a verbal agreement with the council to pay off her arrears, and because she has followed that agreement completely, we think it would be utterly unreasonable for Haringey Council to evict her. It would also cause considerable hardship to her and her daughter, not only putting them through the stress of an eviction, but effectively forcing the family off the council’s waiting list and denying them the permanent home they have been waiting for for over a decade. Read the rest of this post »

November 10, 2015  Tags: , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS, INFORMATION, NEWS  Comments Closed