A mother and her young daughter were served with their 3rd section 21 in April during lockdown. The Covid 19 pandemic actually gave her a feeling of ‘temporary relief’ because she knew that the eviction ban in place they had more time in their home. Our HASL member has good form in taking on section 21s but having been homeless before, being repeatedly threatened with homelessness is taking it’s toll. To make things worse, the home they are fighting to stay in has had serious disrepair and is overcrowded – but as she points out, it’s still better than other private rented homes or going through the homeless process again.
Originally from Lambeth, our HASL member and her young daughter became homeless in December 2017 and approached Lambeth council to make a homeless application. Lambeth council found the family a 1 bedroom private flat in Croydon where they are still living. The offer of this private flat came under Lambeth council’s misleading ‘homeless prevention’ scheme ‘Temp to Settle’ – which our member took on and also successfully challenged!
Housing homeless families in private rented housing does not prevent homelessness as she experienced when her landlord served the first section 21. Over the last 2 and a half years, she has faced so many battles to make her home livable, to remain in her home, and to keep her rights to stay on Lambeth’s housing register. She explains how being part of HASL has helped her to get through all this. For her, secure social housing feels so far away that it would be like winning the lottery.
Our member describes her experiences including being served with a section 21 during lockdown and her feelings about the eviction ban ending.
Moving in – disrepair creating an environmental health hazard
When I viewed the property in December 2017, it was like a show room – what I didn’t realise is that all the white walls were painted in anti-mould paint. After 3 weeks of being there in winter time, mould started to come through very quickly and the worst places in the kitchen and the bathroom. So I spoke with the estate agent and he was really rude to me and he said, “we’ve rented this property out for 10 years and we’ve never had any complaints about the damp and mould, you’ve caused this and you need to pay for it”. It was a battle. And I said “how dare you, even if I washed and dried the whole street’s washing in this property, the amount of mould that has appeared so quickly could not have been accumulated from me”. The day I was moving in, the previous tenant warned me against renting the property, he said it’s not healthy and had given him asthma. 3 weeks later, I knew exactly what I he was talking about. I went straight to environmental health, they had a look around and served them a notice and said to the landlord you have a certain amount of time to do the work. So the landlord ended up paying £4,500 putting in insulation boards. When environmental health came to check the work, he noticed I didn’t have a smoke alarm or Co2 alarm and the landlord was directed to deal with this. Lambeth council gave the all clear for this property knowing there was not a smoke alarm or Co2 alarm. They don’t care. The work is basically putting a plaster on it because structural problems still remain.
Now the winter is coming again, it’s going to start getting damp, and I hope it doesn’t affect my daughter. She caught a cold and virus she was in hospital for 3 days on a nebuliser. She might be asthmatic but the doctors cannot test this until she is 5 years old.
I thought I was safe here and I never thought I would be asked to leave without a good reason. The quality of the property was poor and I was left feeling unhappy realising that the housing system just didn’t care how they treated us.
In April 2019 I got my first section 21 and it worried me and I knew what was to come after attending your meetings. It was a very stressful and worrying time for me as I did not know what would happen if I lost at court. Fortunately, I won that case but I knew it would be a matter of time before I was served another and I was on 9th December 2019. Then I was served another section 21 on 24th April. This was served at the beginning of the pandemic – I was slightly relieved because everything was put on hold and I knew it gave me a bit more time. But it was always at the back of my mind as I knew things eventually would start up again.
When I received the notice, my heart dropped, I was deflated, I thought “here we go again”. It is a horrible and scary feeling not being in control especially having a 3 year old daughter and not knowing what will happen to our future.
I was housed here and set my roots here in Croydon and I knew my daughter would need to go to nursery and I would need to make these important decisions, but these were made highly stressful for me not knowing what my future would hold.
This all happened at a hard time for me, although the pandemic gave me a feeling of temporary relief I knew it was not forever. Although I wanted the pandemic to end so we could all move on and go back to normal there was a part of me that was happy that it was affecting the housing situation, if that makes sense.
The end of the eviction ban
I feel very anxious and nervous about the eviction ban ending, it means that my hell will reopen again putting me in a helpless and worrying situation that I have no control over. It means this journey I do not want to be on will start up again causing me a lot of worry and stress especially as my daughter starts nursery in September, it’s making me depressed. I’m stuck just waiting, laying low, I’m waiting for my name and number to be called basically when my hell will be reopened, until then, I’m just here.
When my name is called, I’ll just have to handle it head on. I wouldn’t be sounding so confident and ready if it wasn’t for knowing that you guys will be there to help and support me along the way.
End section 21
I think the rules on section 21 being served without any good reason should be stopped – it’s not fair that landlords can serve these without a valid explanation which causes so much disruption to families being served them. This is allowing the councils and landlords to participate in a business rather than a service. [In HASL, we have come across a number of times where private landords who rent to homeless families through the council, threaten eviction in order to get another ‘incentive payment’ from the council]. The landlords can accept more tenants from the council and get another incentive which they keep and then the landlords can just get rid of the next family and do the same again. So it’s basically a business rather than a service. Until we stop section 21s, this won’t change. I believe that it should be compulsory that a valid reason should be given until you can serve one, because until then none of us have any security and until this changes, the housing pandemic will never end, it is a vicious cycle and has no sense in trying to help people like myself who go to the council for support.
It’s ridiculous how section 21s can be served. It’s not right at all. You can’t sack someone without an explanation because if you’re unfairly sacked you can go to a tribunal.
Trying to be settled
I’ve settled here, it’s not fair on my daughter, they think it has no effect, my daughter is young and I don’t know what effect this could have on her, we’re sowing our roots. I want to stay here because I’m settled, I’m starting a life here now, and my daughter is at a crucial educational start of her life and I’m doing the best I can. It’s not easy to up and go and start again. I’ve made the best out of a worst situation and you can’t expect people to just up and move. We need that security so that we can make future plans.
There is not enough council houses and they’re not making any more and it goes back to money – its renting, renting, renting. Myatts field estate which is now called the Oval Quarter, the whole estate was council and now 5% is council and the rest is private rented. And it is about £2,500 a month. And they’re like caravans, you can hear your neighbours, the quality of the places are poor. They just want to rush and take everyone’s money, they pop them up like it’s a ping up tent, it’s greed. If you want to resolve the situation and you’re going to get people social housing, you need to make social housing, because everything goes up except for the wages so how do you expect us to survive.
It would be like I’ve won the jackpot, it would be such a weight off and load off my mind. For my daughter not needing to worry. I do not know what the future holds. The rug could be pulled from my feet and I have to pack and go. To have that security it should be a basic necessity, but unfortunately we are being denied this, it would be a dream come true, I can’t explain. It’s so far away from it that it doesn’t even cross my mind. When that day comes, I’ll be so happy. But I’d also feel sad knowing there are people that are going through hell and I’ve had the opportunity. I never even thought about it, I’ve never thought about it that far down.
Joining a housing action group
If it wasn’t for me attending your meetings, I wouldn’t be where I am today because I definitely guarantee, I would have gone down the wrong avenue and I would have shot myself in the foot. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the support that you give for us to take action to tackle what they chuck at us, we are only able to do that with your support and knowledge and your determination because I tell you from now I’m not stupid, but I never would have thought to have done what you guys have, you’ve held my hand and taken me along and where I am today with my head still above water, I would drowned if it was not for you lot.