IMPORTANT THINGS COMING UP:
Visiting Palace of Westminster on the 11th of May – email me or call me on email@example.com or calling 0208 208 5757
A workshop on the 17th May for housing Repairs, Major Works, Fire & Building Safety: email Becky@londontenants.org if you want to attend, if you don’t have email you can call me and I will connect you
A meeting with south west London tenants on the 9th June email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org again, if you don’t have an email address call me on 0208 208 5757.
Today 4th May I spoke on the radio with DJ Frisky about housing. Not as my colleagues have done previously, where they may have explained specific legal rights. I spoke about what can be done along side legal advice. If you have a general housing issue you could contact somewhere like the Citizens Advice or if you have a specialist issue such as the ones below you can contact us:
- Eviction and possession proceedings (from your rented home), including notices served by your landlord
- Homelessness – as an example, you may have been told to your home. You may have approached the council for help but they said they couldn’t help you or offer you any emergency housing. This isn’t always correct, especially if you could be considered in priority need (explaination of priority need can be found here).
- Succession for tenants when the person you live with has died – for example, you may have been caring for a family member of 10 years and living with them. When they pass on, the council or housing association landlord writes to you and say you must leave. This isn’t always correct.
- Unlawful eviction
- Rented home in such poor condition that it’s affecting your health (disrepair)
On 20 March 2019 a new law came into force to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’, which means that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm.
- If your landlord has applied to County Court for an injunction against you, for example because of anti-social behaviour
- Getting rent deposits back
- Renter’s problems with estate agents
If any of the above housing issues do impact you, you could see if we are able to provide legal advice by going to www.swllc.org/get-advice/housing or you can call 020 8767 2777.
You might find another legal advice agency is more suitable such as the Citizen Advice as they deal with more general housing issues that I might not have listed above. The important thing is to get legal advice as early as possible. I am not a legal advisor so won’t be going into the legal side of things. AdviceLocal is a great database that lists advice agencies, what type of advice they provide and where.
Legal advice is crucial and is one weapon in our arsenal against injustice. I am here to talk about what other stuff we can do.
The approach I am going to talk about can be remembered as EIRC. I want everyone to think about this where they are.
I am going to tell you about Sam. Sam loves making clothes at the weekends, she cares for her younger sister and works in a local vets during the week. She has been a council tenant for about 15 years. This morning drips started coming through her ceiling. She lives on the 4th floor of a property. Sam had to go to work this morning. By the time she returned the drips had turned into a huge crack in her ceiling.
We are going to through EIRC to see what can be done to help.
- Evidence – take a few minutes to think about what you think Sam can do to evidence this issue.
Sam can: if she has a smart phone or camera – take pictures, make videos, she can also keep a log – this can be digital or paper. In a log book include who you spoke to, time and date. Also write how it is making you feel, is it preventing you from doing your normal tasks? do you have any vulnerable people living with you that may be more affected by the issue such as those who are old or very young? Write all of this down as it may help with compensation.
- Identify – who is responsible
It is likely it is your landlord. It is good to look at your tenancy agreement and/or tenant handbook which might explain who is responsible and how to contact the responsible person.
Landlord’s repair responsibilities as listed on the Shelter website:
Your landlord is responsible for most repairs in your home. This applies to private landlords, councils and housing associations.
Their responsibilities include repairs to:
- electrical wiring
- gas pipes and boilers
- heating and hot water
- chimneys and ventilation
- sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains
- common areas including entrance halls and stairways
- the structure and exterior of the building, including walls, stairs and bannisters, roof, external doors and windows
- Report – Who should Sam report to?
Sam should contact her landlord as they are responsible for fixing the issue.
You might have a tenant handbook which gives details of who to contact to report a repair or on your tenancy agreement. If you live on an estate there might be a notice board that includes information about who to contact to report a repair – if you have found this informaiton hard to find, you can include that in your evidence as it may help with a complaint. Typing in your council or housing association landlords name and ‘report a repair’ on an internet search engine may link you to the correct place. If you are a private tenant contact the person you signed your tenancy agreement with if you don’t know who to contact.
Remember to write down who you spoke to, time and when and what was said.
- Connect – who might you be able to connect with to raise this issue? If the landlord is not dealing with your repairs, they might not be dealing with your neighbours either.
Do you have a tenant and resident association (TRA) where you live? Is there a local action group? We work with London Tenants Federation who brings “together social housing tenant organisations from across the capital to act on matters that affect our homes and communities.“
If you are not sure if you have a tenant and resident association we could help you set one up, or connect you to one if you do have one. TRAs have more power and a collective voice. You can create meetings and invite politicians or people from your council to answer your questions.
https://fixmyblock.org/citizen-journalism/Social media can also be a helpful took to connect with people. If you want to set up a twitter account for raising these issues – I will do that with you! I can help set one up, and we can learn the basics. FixMyBlock website for tenants has a great citizens journalism guide you can read here!
Now, send your mind back Sam – the tenant I spoke about earlier.
Sam reported the issue, it is 5 days later – the leak still hasn’t been fixed. Sam can start this process again.
There is a ‘right to repairs scheme’ which outlines how long a repair should take to be resolved. I would say anything that goes beyond this deserves a complaint and to have the issue escalated:
Qualifying repairs under the right to repair scheme for local authority (aka council) tenants provides a useful guideline:
|Repair type||Response time(working days)|
|Total loss of electric power||1|
|Partial loss of electric power||3|
|Unsafe power or lighting socket or electrical fitting||1|
|Total loss of water supply||1|
|Partial loss of water supply||3|
|Total or partial loss of gas supply||1|
|Blocked flue to open fire or boiler||1|
|Heating or hot water not working between 31 October and 1 May||1|
|Heating or hot water not working between 1 May and 31 October||3|
|Blocked/leaking foul drain, soil stack or toilet||1|
|Toilet not flushing (if there is only one toilet in the property)||1|
|Blocked sink, bath or basin||3|
|Tap cannot be turned||3|
|Leak from a water pipe, tank or cistern||1|
|Insecure external window, door or lock||1|
|Loose or detached banister or hand rail||3|
|Rotten timber flooring or stair tread||3|
|Door entry phone not working||7|
|Mechanical extractor fan not working||7|
Using EIRC – What do you do?
Evidence – it is good to have kept a diary for each day you are experiencing the issue and to continue taking photos and videos so each stage of the issue can be evidenced.
Identify – now who is responsible? If your landlord who is responsible for fixing the repair, hasn’t taken responsibility you should make a complaint against them.
Report – Report it to your landlord again, make a complaint against them by using their internal complaint process, report it to your ward councillor (person who represents you in your local area in council related issues), report it to your MP (member of parliament who represents you in parliament), report it to our Social Justice Network by contacting email@example.com and report it the world by taking to social media and/or contact the media, FixMyBlock even have a guide on how tenants can contact the media as they know it is a really important tool for achieving justice!
You can use the below search engine to find out who your Cllr and MPs are here: WriteToThem – Email your Councillor, MP, MSP, MS, MLA or London Assembly Member for free
You should start the complaint process when your complaint has been dealt with within a reasonable time. Again, if you struggled to find the complaint process for your landlord – you should log that as that can contribute to your complaint. There is a Housing Ombudsman and a Regulator of Social Housing. The Housing Ombudsman says you must have gone through your landlords internal complaint procedure before contacting the ombudsman unless you going through a ‘designated person’ – this may be your local Cllr, an MP or tenant panel.
It is always important to speak to your MP at any point of a legal issue as they need to know what issues are affecting the people they are elected to represent. Visit their surgeries, phone them or write to them and tell them about the issue.
Connect – connect with other tenant groups, housing campaigners, there are some big social campaigners on twitter that you can tag. If no one is listening to you – is a protest needed? What is being discussed at public local authority meetings? Could you ask to make a deputation (which is like a public speech)? What could the South West London Law Centres Social Justice Network do to help?
The South West London Law Centres’ Social Justice Network made up of people living in south-west London. In December 2021 we submitted evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee about the condition of our council and housing association homes and how repair issues are not being addressed. Thank you to the members who contributed to our written evidence you can read our submission here.
We have now been invited to attend a round table discussion with 10 MPs in the Palace of Westminster in the afternoon of the 11th of May. It is a round table discussion for tenants and we have been told that 15 tenants are invited. Do you live in a council or housing association owned property that has had a housing issue that wasn’t addressed by your landlord? Join us!
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0208 208 5757.
As mentioned – we also have the London Tenant Federation in our arsenal against injustice. These are an amazing group of tenants who fight hard to improve housing. If you are a tenant, I really suggest getting in touch with them at email@example.com or call 07931 214913. They have training opportunities, opportunity to contribute to policy shaping and loads more. They can also help with setting up tenant associations. As they are a collaboration of tenants, they will really listen to you.
London Tenants Federation have some meetings coming up in May and June looking at overcrowding, rents and service charges and I will be speaking on the 17th May about Repairs, Major Works, Fire & Building Safety:. Tenants will share and learn tips for evidence gathering, knowing your rights and demanding safe housing, from each other and guests from Tower Blocks UK also.
To sign up email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, we have a meeting coming up with South West London tenant and resident associations- so if you are part of a tenant and resident association – MAKE SURE YOU COME, if you are thinking of setting one up – make sure you come, or if you are a tenant who wants to support from other tenants, make sure you come. This will be a great opportunity to meet others in council and housing association tenants in your area – I am sure you can leave cameras off if you aren’t ready yet. This meeting is on the 9th of June.
So, key things coming up if you live in a council or housing association property:
- Visiting Palace of Westminster on the 11th of May – email me or call me on email@example.com or calling 0208 208 5757
- A workshop on the 17th May for housing Repairs, Major Works, Fire & Building Safety: email Becky@londontenants.org if you want to attend, if you don’t have email you can call me and I will connect you.
- A meeting with south west London tenants on the 9th June email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org again, if you don’t have an email address call me on 0208 208 5757.
If you have a housing issue contact – www.swllc.org/get-advice/housing or you can call 020 8767 2777.
If you want to join our social justice network – contact me on email@example.com or calling 0208 208 5757 to become a member – as together we are stronger.
EIRC can be applied to lots of legal situations. Remember: Evidence, Identify, Report, Connect.