Over the past year or so I have helped a number of families and residents. I will not reveal any details of the people as that is a breach of their confidentiality, so I will give basic details so that I can show how they and countless others no doubt are living in conditions that quite frankly are no better than the old slums of the 1890’s!
Family number One
This family had been on the waiting list for over 8 years. They had a notice to quit their current accommodation yet they were put on the lowest band so no matter how often they bid on homes they liked and would like to live in they were never considered. It was apparent that the band was incorrect and they should be actually in Band 2 rather than Band 6.
With a few e-mails, a few weeks, a bit of investigation and some legalese contained in the letters this family were eventually offered a suitable property and moved in on the day they would have been made homeless.
Family number Two
This family lived in a completely unsuitable property. Due to disabilities and illness the property was simply not fit for purpose. One family member was unable to use climb any stairs at all. They were reduced to descending the out stairwell on their bottom and crawling back up on their hands and knees. This was not only undignified but was also extremely painful. Inside the property the family member could not access the upper floor, they had no option but to sleep on the couch in the living room. They also had to have a commode brought so that they had some sort of toilet facilities, as they couldn’t access their bathroom! It was a very dire state of affairs. Again rules stated were that one had to be a resident of good standing for two years before an application could be made for a property exchange.
I don’t know about you but I knew how different life can change in two years and this seemed like a rather arbitrary period of time. This family had been contacting the relevant people and departments but each time they met the same barriers. After a good few months of trying and getting nowhere they contacted me.
I started the ball rolling, had to get other agencies involved but I am happy to say the family have now got the keys for a disabled adapted property and move in very soon. The family member will now have access to a bed, toilet and washing facilities etc.
This family have now moved into the new property, they are very happy despite a few odd remedial repairs to be undertaken but they have now got access to a bathroom with the adaptions required so things are looking up for them.
Family Number Three
This a particularly harrowing situation for anyone to find themselves in. The family have been in private rented properties for a number of years. Sadly having to move every now and then due to the Landlord’s property being required for use by the owner or in some situations the property being repossessed.
The Landlord of their latest property, despite being aware of the problems and being present at the Pest Control Officers inspection, allowed the family to live in a house that was infested with rats. The family had become severely ill on a number of occasions, they had put it down to various possibilities like a bug picked up from school, work or a dodgy burger/take away the things we would all think of first. None of us would think any different.
The family had been taking medication and doing all they could to keep the infestation under control but it was like trying to turn back the tide (think King Canute) they and their young children were suffering to such a degree that the Landlord should in my humble opinion be prosecuted.
I remained hopeful that this family would be soon found a home, free from non-contributing unwanted guests
RATS. They needed a home to start to live normally together and to enjoy a real family life, without moving so often. Alas before the family could think about their future things in the here and now got worse! I had previously suggested that the family contact environmental health and to make an emergency appointment with their GP. I was concerned about health issues, namely Wiels Disease which is a killer.
A member of the Environmental Health team came out and raised worries on a number of issues regarding the property. The rats were one issue but even more worrying was the boiler. Transco were called and within an hour or so the Boiler was condemned. So the family were facing the prospect of not only being infested with rats but also being cold and having no access to hot water to wash in or to clean with.
This was now a matter of life and death there was a boiler that was condemned but due to its position and some faults with its installation it was highly likely the family had been suffering the effects of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
This did escalate the matter somewhat and the council did get the family booked into a hotel as there was category 1 breach. The council where actually on the ball when it came to ensuring the health and safety of the family. This is one time when I can see that Health and Safety laws really do help.
I have fantastic news, the family have now been successful in the bidding process. They have been to view their new home and they accepted it immediately. The family are ecstatic and are looking forward to a more secure future in to their “forever” home.
It has been a slog but must say the council staff have been very helpful and accommodating. The family now have the keys to their new home and are moving in.
There are so many families on Council Housing waiting lists, some living in conditions such as this family or indeed even worse. Most families are forced into private rented properties because there simply are not enough Social Housing properties available for those who need them. Families are being charged rents by these slum landlords that aren’t cheap by any means. Many rents are more than it would cost per month to pay a repayment mortgage on the property, most places in my local area are at least £475 a month! This is for the cheapest properties in the area, rents on average are around £650 for a 2 bedroom house.
Working families find the rents crippling, they can’t save to get a deposit to buy their own home which would cost less per month than the rent. Obviously things a different in the South or in very sought after areas.
Families like those above and many others who find themselves in this situation must fill out countless forms, they often have made request for help from their Councillors and MP but their pleas did not produce any sort of help or assistance. What are these people doing? They are paid to help, support and take up such issues but all to often I hear that despite contacting the elected officials the help is not forthcoming and I suppose that is why people search me out and ask for my help. I am helping people all over the country not just my local area.
Obviously this is just a snapshot of the issues people are facing and in fairness to those involved I have diluted their stories and given scant information. It would be wholly unfair to them, the council area they live in and a breach of confidence.
What is the solution to the housing shortage and slum landlords?
I firmly believe that on the brown field sites in every town and city it would be the best course of action for councils to build houses and to retain them as a real asset. Ok the initial capital outlay could be high but it will give the council assets that could be mortgaged if need be. It will put more social housing in to the system which will save more families from slum style landlords.
Why should the taxpayer fund the pension plans of Slum Landlords
The people who are the usual inhabitants of the slum properties are those on low incomes and those on housing benefit. Why should they be forced to live in such disgusting properties that are full of mould, damp, rats, faulty boilers etc.
Sadly many of these landlords do not even perform the basic checks undertaken such as gas safety! How can they allow people to live in a home that could be killing them? So many people die in winter due to Carbon Monoxide poisoning, they need to put the heating on more often
in cold weather and the results can be disastrous for the inhabitants and others who are close by. It is criminal that families who aren’t well off must suffer at the hands of unscrupulous, uncaring, money grabbing, slum landlords.
No matter how we may wish for a smaller state there are some things in a civilised society that must be controlled by the state. The rise of slum Landlord’s in the past 20 years or so has been exponential. The councils have sold many properties off to residents or Housing Associations. Instead of replenishing stock the councils didn’t, the Government didn’t push that agenda either, it seems they were more interested in collecting the massive revenues from stamp duty on the ever increasing values of houses.
At least there are now 3 families with a secure and stable home, I wish I could help more people and families but I am just one person. I will continue to help all who ask, sadly I cannot ever guarantee outcomes that would be unfair and wrong.
I will always try my best to help those in need. Maybe one day the families will reveal the full details but that is for them to do!
If you need help please contact me I will try my best to give you the help, support or best agency to assist you.