A Wembley Matters reader tells us about her housing offer from Brent Council
Today I intend to make myself voluntarily Homeless!
I have been accepted as Homeless by Brent Council and they have made me an offer of accommodation that is totally unsuitable.
It is a two bedroomed flat in the basement of a chicken shop in Harlesden High Street and is only half a step up from a bed in a shed.
The outside door to the flat shows evidence of having been nibbled by rats and leads into a corridor shared with the kitchen of the take-away. At the end of the corridor is an extremely narrow stone staircase (down which is would be impossible to bring any furniture) which leads to a yard used by the chicken shop as an extra storage/preparation area.
Stepping over what look to be a permanent puddle you finally gain access to the flat which is dark and unfurnished - probably because no furniture could be brought into the flat - in fact there is no room for any furniture.
The lounge is so small that you'd have to choose between putting in a mini sofa or a table in as there is not room for both.
In the 'master' bedroom there is no room for a bed and a wardrobe and in the second bedroom you might just about be able to fit in a single bed and a bedside table.
There is no storage space in the place and any furniture would have to be brought in flat packed as nothing could fit down the stone steps.
It is a health and fire hazard and totally unsuitable for a person of my advanced years and arthritis. My son is an adult with autism, agoraphobia and anxiety issues and his mental health could only be compromised by such conditions.
Brent has made no concessions to my son’s condition and has told us we must move there and then appeal against our allocation from there. Failure to sign the lease and move in will result in our being intentionally homeless.
They will not even consider any medical circumstances or appeals under The Equalities Act until I sign a years lease on this hell hole. The pressure to sign has been enormous.
It's quite possible that you'll read the above and think I should be grateful for any offer but Brent's use of substandard private rentals effects all of us as Council Tax payers.
The rent which Brent is guaranteeing the landlord - whether the flat is occupied or not is £346 per week or £17,992 per annum coming directly out of our Council taxes to line the pockets of a landlord who would be unable to rent that property at that price on the open market and which has been empty for some time.
I'm sure that there are light and airy 2 bedroom flats in Harlesden for which the market rent of that magnitude would be fair but a subterranean cupboard with rodent and hygiene issues should not be allowed to be rented under the umbrella of 'market rate' in the area.
If, as I will, I refuse to take this flat I will be bounced off the Council's waiting list despite having been on it for 8 years and having lived in Brent for 43 years. I have been desperate to get secure housing for myself and my son; as in common with most parents of disabled children I worry what will happen to him in the long term. However I genuinely believe that I would be causing him more harm by taking that flat than I will be doing by refusing it.
The only winner in this situation is a landlord who thinks it is acceptable to charge the Council such an extortionate rent to house the most vulnerable in society in such sub-standard accommodation.
This is unbelievable! That place is not fit for human habitation and they should know it. Are places not inspected in a regular basis? You should have to be bumped down the list for refusing to live in sub human conditions. I hate the system works so well for some (that take advantage of it and profit) and so bad for those truly in need. I hope you find the help you need 🙏
So clean it up when you move in. Get things fixed.
You obviously have not read the post. The place is unfit for human habitation. But you think she should live there. Shame on you!
I'm not surprised yr anonymous, bloody disgusting comment
As soon as I read this post, I sent the following email, marked "Urgent" to the Chief Executive and Leader of Brent Council. I hope that they will take the necessary action.
Dear Ms Downs and Councillor Butt,
I have just read this post on "Wembley Matters", by a person who Brent Council is threatening to treat as 'intentionally homeless' if they don't accept a one year lease on a private letting which appears to be unfit for human habitation:
I hope that you will also read this piece, and take action to ensure that this unacceptable position is resolved. Thank you. Best wishes,
You're not living in the real world.
You must be the landlord of this derelict shed or just a general human of ill repute.
Please correct me if I am wrong, but I thought all Landlords need to be licenced to ensure their properties meet decent home standards, and to prevent rogue landlords from renting unsuitable, unsafe, unsanitary conditions, and if that is the case then they should not be letting this property to anyone least of all for the extortionate rent they are charging. Surely it does not meet the Licence test. I would also question how much training and work experience does the Housing Officer have who thought this hovel was acceptable.?
Thank you for your (mostly kind) comments.
I'd point out to Anonymous that Council Tax payers (of which I am one) are subsidising this hell hole whether or not I or anyone else moves in. I'm sure that this senario of slum landlords handing their properties over to the Council so that said Council can subsidise them at our expense is not an isolated one. In fact with the Government nationally paying out approx £9 billion per annum to private landlords through Housing Benefit BRENT is shamed as being the second highest London Borough subsidising private landlords to the tune of £185 million per annum.
There are better places if you move away from London especially if you intend to be reliant on state benefits. I am sick and tired of my council taxes going up because of people not paying their dues to society. I am saving for my old age so that I don't become a burden on society.
I know I will get lynched for my comments but as a low paid full time worker, I am wondering why I should be sustaining a lifestyle choice for people who don't want to contribute to the society and expect that the rest of the society owes them duty of care. You want a nice mansion then move out of London..
I must say that i'm not surprised by this article.
For the past 19 years(2021, will be my 20th year) I have endured want for space, peace, quality on just every level, competence, efficiency, and trust
on the part of the landlord, who have shown themselves to be lacking in all those key areas and more.
Chalkhill estate, based on my long tenancy, is a huge let down and living here is an almost daily nightmare.
Whether it's the torment of being disturbed by my neighbours who slam their front doors rather than close them with consideration for their fellow neighbours,
or the persistent infestation of moths in my flat that has damaged my clothes, furniture and my health in terms of depression, anxiety, frustration, as I become accustomed to scanning the walls, carpet and furniture and clothes, for signs of moths hiding and laying more eggs that exacerbate the decade long problem,
and as if that were not enough, there's also the problem with inconsiderate neighbours who make my home life a regular nightmare by their activities that seep into my flat and cause me much frustration when the noise gets too much to bear.
Throughout all of this ( and there's more, but I think that you get the point) my landlord, let alone Brent council, has been anything other than supportive.
If I were to describe the way this entire experience as a let down, that would be a great understatement, because Brent council isn't just negligent in its duty concerning social housing, it actually goes further than that.
I recently wrote a letter in the Brent and Kilburn Times newspaper, to express my sympathy for the residents of South Kilburn who have been treated so badly by the council regarding social homes and regeneration.
The way the aforementioned were treated, reflects similar treatment of those who were unfortunate to have lived on Chalkhill estate prior to its demolition.
The council promised much and delivered little in terms of quality and all the things that help estates to be nice and pleasant places for people to live.
In conclusion, I say that, if Brent council failed the long suffering tenants of Chalkhill, and South Kilburn,
then they will naturally do the same to everyone else.
Likewise, if Brent council, strove to deliver decent homes for all residents
in the past, they would do the same in the future.
They failed to do that, and not that they can't deliver decent homes for all, but rather they appear to be content to fob residents off with poor quality homes like the one in question and the one I have been suffering for the past 19 years.
In addition to that, the surrounding environment matches the poor quality homes within Brent.
People don't care where they dispose their litter, they just can't be bothered to dispose of it properly.
Piles of waste material can be seen and found throughout Chalkhill estate and surrounding areas, and Brent council does little or nothing to tackle this growing problem.
I say that when a situation like this starts to develop, one cannot help but feel hopeless, because until attitudes change across the board, Brent will never be better.
A better Brent is possible, but it won't happen until everyone plays their part.
At the present time, no one seems to care, and the flat in question is a perfect reflection of that selfish, lazy attitude that isn't limited to certain residents but exists within the council itself, which is also in denial and seems to believe that it is doing good.
Brent council has a bad reputation for providing poor quality homes for local residents.
I don't agree with the lady in question making herself ''homeless'' is the best way to bring about a much needed change, but it's her decision.
I don't think that writing to Carolyn Downs will make much difference
because if the council wanted to provide a decent home for this woman,
they would do it.
Advice4Renters has a specialist legal team who can give this person free advice. Can you ask her/him to contact us on 020 7624 4327 or email us on email@example.com Thanks.
This email was sent to me at 9am today. It does provide some hope:
Thank you for the email below and for highlighting the issue that the resident is facing.
Cllr Southwood is working with the officers to look into this matter.
Cllr Muhammed Butt
Leader of Brent Council.'
Lets hope for a positive outcome for MMCL!
There is nothing you can do as I brought my Similar Situations as my place was dumpCase to your org but you didn't do anything except just writing a letters and not taking a proper legal action.
At the suggestion of a councillor I was in touch with, I had forwarded a copy of my email the Carolyn Downs and Cllr. Butt to the three local councillors for Harlesden Ward. This is the reply I received from one of them yesterday:
'My natural reaction to this is utter disappointment. You have already emailed the leader of the council and chief executive . I am sure that they are dealing with this now. I will express my disappointment with them. As I can assure you this is not why any of us got into politics. We actually got into politics to solve issue such as this.
Give us a bit of time and we will try or best to find a much needed solution to this terrible matter.
Cllr Joshua Murray'
I believe in engaging with our elected representatives, so that they are aware of the things that matter to us. They need to know what is happening, and can sometimes make a difference by taking up a case with the Council Officers or Cabinet members who make the decisions.
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