Tuesday 12 June 2012

Bad Landlords

..or "Homes not Under The Hammer"

Although I would prefer not to  I feel that I have no choice (esp. as I was unable to secure legal representation although I approached two -supposedly specialist-, local solicitors concerning the matter), but to publish my recent correspondence with Southampton City Council's Council Housing Office here, this will also enable my M.P, local councilor and other campaigning organisations/journalists to have direct access  to the material.


"Dear Sir/Madam
 The following represents my assessment of the problems and issues that have arisen as a result of my placement in and occupation of .......... Southampton since the commencement of my tenancy in the August of 2010 (please also see enclosed). I will also be forwarding copies of this correspondence to other governmental and non-governmental support services such as The DWP/DLA (Benefit Services), and IAPT etc. (incl. any legal services that I may approach in order to represent my interests with regard to these -and/or related-, issues).
 These issues I shall enumerate as follows;
1. That ...... was unsuitable for habitation by either myself or any tenant at the time that it was let (& remains so . In support of this assertion may I refer you to the letter dated 01/03/2012 (a copy of which is enclosed), from "Promoting Independence in People Ltd." (on behalf of Southampton City Council).
 Quote.."Following my visit , I discussed your requests with my supervisor. The only option available is to remove the radiator to increase your leg space and reduce any burns risk"...
"The council will also visit to assess fitting the grab rails to aid you getting in and out of the bath."....
"I have contacted the adaptations officer and they liased with Decent Homes, who report that they attempted to make contact with you last year to assess your property for any upgrades. I explained that the condition of your kitchen was in poor repair. If you are in agreement you can be placed back on the list and should be assessed by them within the financial year beginning 04/2013."*

*In-fact the assessment mentioned did take place (please consult the appropriate records), however as a result of the lack of a suitable outbuilding in which to house my freezer my tenancy was adjudged unsuitable for upgrading (see point 4 below).

 Given the seriousness of my physical disabilities and my desire to contact yourselves with regard to them and the other issues I intend to cover in this correspondence I have not as yet replied to PIP Ltd. When I do I shall make known my belief that simply removing the radiator in the bathroom does not in any way represent an adequate response to the problems I have encountered with this tenancy.
2. I am a paraesthesiac with serious neurological problems who also suffers from a serious (stress-related),  self-harm condition. As result of my spinal injury (which includes a chronic pelvic imbalance, shortening of my right leg and weakness in my right groin -a result of a veinous graft relating to the surgical repair of a rupture in my left brachial artery-), the placement of the toilet at ....... is causing me both physical and emotional distress (both of which are are seriously aggravating my self-harm condition and can also result in a lower back spasm that can leave me unable to walk and in considerable pain for days). Any hightening of the already distressing pain levels from which I suffer is clearly unacceptable I therefore must insist that the council make strenuous efforts on my behalf to address these problems as soon as possible.
3. I was awarded the tenancy of ....... as a direct result of the points I was allocated by Housing Services precisely because of the physical and mental disorders from which I suffer. Sadly this ground floor "garden-flat" would be ideal if it were not for the problems I have already mentioned and those I intend to outline in the rest of this correspondence.
4. Being "partially-able" (for like many paraesthesiacs I can indulge in various forms of physical activity which I inevitably "pay for" afterwards with often distressingly -depending upon the level of activity-, increased levels of pain and paralysis), I (with the help of some of my friends), have addressed some of the other problems I encountered on commencement of my tenancy. These included digging out a damp-course protecting ditch to a depth of approx. 1ft along the entire north facing wall (also including the brick wall between .......nd it's neighbouring garden), and constructing a steel shed on the concrete plinth which formerly supported the original brick-built shed which (according to "Decent Homes"), was removed because it contained asbestos (ref. point 1 above; the steel shed is not big enough to house both my electric bycycle and my freezer but was all I could afford from my benefit entitlement). The assessor from Decent Homes viewed the ditch around the north facing wall and confirmed to me that the work had been necessary as the unofficial "patio-area" (which had obviously been "constructed" by a previous tenant in clear breach of good practice), was stifiling the damp-course and causing the effervesecent mould that was spreading upwards on the external brick-work (internally this is the bedroom wall -a bedroom which was unquestionably unacceptably damp on commencement of my tenancy-). Regardless of the complete unsuitability of the bathroom these issues alone are enough to have adjudged.........as "unsuitable for human habitation" and should have been assessed as such prior to the commencement of my tenancy.
 The re-pointing of the brickwork, slury sealant and drainage graveling of the ditch which would complete the work on the north-facing wall and wall section of the garden partitioning has not been attempted as a result of my lack of adequate funds and the intermitent nature of the necessary help I require from my friends.
 The rear garden of ........ (especially & including the raised "growing area"), is also covered to approx. 50% by concrete making it completely unsuitable for cultivation and the wall protecting the patio-area which prevents the sloped and raised growing area from displacing is cracked from top to bottom in the middle and requires bracing.
5. Access to the rear garden, storage shed and back door is hindered by a "picket-type" fence and gate surrounding my neighbour's property which I am forced to open (and transit part of my neighbours garden), whenever I require said access. The property clearly requires some structural work/re-organisation in order to increase the size of both the kitchen and bathroom and ensure proper access to both flats (.....), and their gardens.
6. Also (although the following is not the council's direct responsibility), lack of support from other organisations and authorities such as psychiatric, general practitioner and the MIND "Floating Support" and medical complaints support services (who could aid me with the first two), has also aggravated my physical and mental health problems. I have received no support whatsoever from these services since the commencement of my tenancy (which has meant that no-one apart from PIP Ltd. has visited me here over the entire 20 month period of my occupation). As a result of this lack of support I am struggling to re-apply/apply for both my DLA, SDA and Income Support entitlements and since February have suffered a 2/3 reduction in the benefits I was originally receiving at the commencement of my tenancy. British Telecom have now restricted both my telecommunications and televisual services and I have now been without these for approx. 6 weeks (please see enclosed).
7.Further to the other "practical" issued raised above I would also like to make known to the council what I feel are the unacceptable levels of hostility and intimidation I have encountered from my neighbours (and others), since the commencement of my tenancy. I reported the incidents concerned to the local Community Police Team during a visit by officer Mark Humble which I requested as a result of these "levels of hostility and intimidation".
8. As result of both my physical and mental health problems I suffer from periodic episodes of self-harm, destructive behaviour and verbal outbursts whose severity directly reflect the amount of physical and mental stress to which I am being subjected. As a result my tenancy has suffered a degree of superficial damage internally (such as to some of the flimsier fixtures such as the weak paneling of the doors provided in this type of council tenancy). I would like to make clear to the council that given the problems I have outlined in this correspondence I do not intend to accept financial responsibility for any such damage (this includes the shattering of the glass in the front door -replaced by one of your contractors-, which occurred as result of a "heavy slam" and was not a deliberate act -, as has not been any of the "superficial damage" referred to previously-).
9. Given the above it should be obvious to the reader that the reason that I did not bring these matters to your attention before now is a direct result of the unsuitability of the tenancy and the lack of support from the various services that should have been concerned with my welfare outlined above (in-fact the stress of the composition of this correspondence and the current difficulties I am encountering simply communicating these concerns have themselves resulted in yet another unpleasant episode of self-injury).
 I trust that Southampton City Council will treat my complaint with the seriousness which it deserves and contact me with regard to same as soon as possible. Thank you."


"Dear Mr.......
 Thank you for your letter dated 02/05/12 in which you outline the response to my complaints/concerns raised in my original (stage 1), correspondence concerning my tenancy of ........, along with my response to your correspondence I also intend to bring to your attention a number of issues not raised in said correspondence. As follows;
1. As I stated in my original correspondence I do not consider that merely depriving me of a radiator in the bathroom (and installing an electric fan-heater), in order to make available a small amount of space on the left-hand side of the toilet represents an adequate response to my real physical need for an adequately appointed toilet. As I explained I have a serious spinal condition which includes a pelvic imbalance (caused by the effect of two different accidents and three seperate surgical procedures). Even when the alterations you suggest are carried out there will still not be adequate space for me to sit on the toilet squarely and evenly which will mean that I will continue to suffer from considerable pain and distress (which will have a serious *knock-on" effect on my stress-related self-harm condition). Whilst I do not fully approve of the measures you outline I have made arrangements to allow access to your contractors in order to improve the current situation in the interim whilst we discuss a full and proper resolution of the problems in the bathroom/toilet of .......
2. You state that the issue of access the rear garden should have been considered during my visit from the occupational therapist, it was not. I did not show the occupational therapist the external problems at ....... for a number of reasons, these being; I have a stress-related mental health condition and have been suffering from a chronic lack of support since the inception of my tenancy at .......(a problem about which I made you aware in my original correspondence), the garden and access issues were not at the top-of-my-list as regards my pain and discomfort also these issues did not strike me as being those with which the occupational therapist would necessarily concern themselves.
3. You do not acknowledge that contrary to the O.T therapists report "Decent Homes" have in-fact visited the property on a number of occasions during my tenancy but have been unable to offer a response to the issues raised by the inadequately small bathroom and kitchen spaces.
4. Regarding my assertion that structural work will need to be undertaken in order to increase the size of both the kitchen and bathroom at .........you state in your letter that you, quote; "strongly suspect that there will be no basis for any additional work", quite apart from my obvious disagreement with this statement I also find you inference that I am not of sufficiently sound mind to make such an assessment both insulting and descriminatory more especially so as it also ignores the (preliminary), assessments of both the Occupational Therapist and that of "Decent Homes".
5. I thank you for contacting Action Line with regard to the issue of the cracked wall in the rear garden.
6. I have received a visit from your Asset Management Dept. and the gentleman who visited concurred that the correct action had in-fact been taken by myself and my friend and that arrangements will be made to finish the works started. You also mention a "settling in visit" on 15/09/10 when you state, quote: "you were specifically advised to report these issues to Action Line". May I remind you again that I have received no external support with my tenancy of ........ since it's inception and that this "visit" came very soon after my initial occupation began, I may not have been fully aware of the issue at this time and would in any-case hope that such serious issues would not just be the provenance of a "settling-in" visit. You also state in the next paragraph that, quote: "apart from the damp issues which you received advice on, the only other issue recorded was a query about soundproofing", may I gain refer you to my statement above concerning the lack of support I have received since the inception of my tenancy.
7. I thank you for contacting Housing Management with regard to discussing what help/support may be available and to address my concerns about intimidation.
8. With regard to the superficial damage to some of the internal fittings to which I refer in my original correspondence I can only restate my belief that it is unfair to expect that I should bear finincial responsibility for same considering the unsuitability of ........ for letting to a person such as myself.
9. In the first paragraph of this correspondence I refer to; "a number of issues not raised in my original correspondence", these being;
a). The urine-soaked wood-panelling in the bathroom which was displaying a large blue-white mould growth (which covered a total area of at least 4-5m sq), which took me over six months to properly remove/adequately treat the woodwork in order to prevent it's return (again something I dealt with myself). Two of my friends witnessed this infestation and are prepared to validate my assertion (..... my upstairs neighbour has also attested to the poor hygiene standards of the previous tenant).
b). As I pointed out to the gentleman from The Asset Management Dept. on the occasion of his recent visit concerning the works needed on the rear wall of the property (and also at the behest of my upstairs neighbours). the over-flow pipe from the bathroom has been sited 3-4 inches above the gate/fence to my rear garden which is rotting the fence and is allowing no drainage (which also speaks to the access issue regarding the rear garden mentioned earlier).
c). The Xpelair unit fitted in the bathroom has not worked since the commencement of my tenancy and the bathroom accumulates unhealthy amounts of mould very quickly as does the kitchen in which there is no exctractor (clearly issues closely associated with their inadequate size).
    It should be clear from this correspondence that I do not consider that the issues I have raised concerning my (or anyone else's), tenacy/occupation of ...... have not been adequately addressed by the council's initial reponse and that I wish to proceed to stage 2 of the complaints procedure. Given my comments concerning the current lack of support which I am experiencing I hope that the council will understand that my ability to respond is limited by my health conditions and that you will allow me time to seek further help and advice (both legal and otherwise), with regard to these issues. With regard to my obligation to report issues such as the above to the council I can only refer again to my statement above (ref. italicised item 2), and also state that given the sheer number of problems it is hardly surprising that I was unable to make an adequate appraisal of these prior to the "settling in" visit on 15/09/10 referred to above. Thank you."

So far I have been unable to secure any of the "further help" referred to above, which has forced me to the somewhat desperate measure of publishing my correspondence here.

 Whilst I can sit at home watching "Homes Under The Hammer" everyday and see private individuals climbing their way up "the property ladder" by renovating and renewing old properties (often receiving considerable returns on their investment), where nothing is thought of knocking down a wall here, changing the floor-plan there or extending either outwards or upwards my 50 year old council flat (which has never been altered since it was built), is considered unsuitable for same despite the fact that such work is clearly way overdue. I certainly could not sell the flat in such condition (if I had been foolish enough to have bought it)! Despite all this however I have so far been unable to secure legal representation in support of my case.

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