Last week, a new round of eviction notices were issued to residents in the ‘amber’ houses, giving these families just two months to find a new home.
This week, residents whose eviction notice ended in December have been served with a claim form for possession by the court. This is not just a legal letter, it comes with punishing costs: £355.00 in court fees and £69.50 in legal costs… Residents are being ordered to pay for their own eviction! £424.50 is no small sum for low-income households. Pemberstone are pursuing every means they can to force families out of their homes.
But to go where?
Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close residents are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as options are limited and many other private landlords are refusing to rent to them.
Supply and cost crisis
Council house options remain a non-starter, as there are so few available and they have hundreds of bidders. Cindy and John recently shared that they were 693rd on a list for one house they bid for.
Two and three-bed rentals in the LS26 postcode are in critically short supply, too. A search on Rightmove for rental properties within a 3 mile radius of our Oulton estate brings up just 14 options. That’s nowhere near enough to house the dozens of families currently being forced out of our estate. Moreover, many of these rentals are not on bus routes that enable people to easily get to work or maintain care responsibilities for their wider families.
In addition to supply issues, rental costs of these houses remain prohibitive. There are just 6 three-bed houses in that list of 14, and their rents start at £795 per month and go up to £1,100 per month – that’s at least a 65% increase on what families are paying in Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close. Even if some residents downsize from their three-bed to a two-bed, they’ll still be paying hundreds more than their current rates and will lose a significant amount of personal space. Such rent hikes are a scary prospect when we’re all at the cliff edge of a cost-of-living crisis in food and energy prices.
On top of all of that, even when a property is available in the right location at a manageable price, residents are being turned away by other private landlords.
Some won’t allow pets, forcing people into agonising decisions about what to do with dogs, cats and other furry companions who aren’t just members of the family, but have been vital emotional support during the pandemic.
Other landlords won’t even consider tenants who are being helped by the Council or are in receipt of housing benefits.
Discrimination against housing benefits claimants risks breaking the law. Two high profile cases in 2020 saw judges rule that refusal to let to someone because they receive housing benefits can be “indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability contrary to sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010”. Yet it is still happening because landlords can cloak prejudice in affordability checks.
Neighbours in our Oulton estate have been told directly and indirectly that they are not being considered because landlords don’t believe they can afford the rents, or that landlords don’t want to deal with tenants in receipt of benefits or other Council support. Even when residents come with guarantors – i.e. family or friends who agree to be a back up for rent – they are still being turned down.
People on this estate have a long history of paying rent on time to Pemberstone and no record of rent arrears elsewhere. Yet this doesn’t seem to matter.
The brutal irony is that the longer this discrimination goes on, the longer tenants will be forced to overstay their eviction notices and breach their tenancy, rendering them ‘poor’ future tenants for future landlords. It’s a Catch-22 where our families have zero options.