A young family with a disabled son are being forced out their rented flat
But the pressures that pushed them to fight won’t go away as their son Alex, 12, has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a painful disabling condition that makes it increasingly hard to walk.
In a few weeks’ time he is due to be fitted with splints.
The family, who also have a nine-year-old daughter, believe their predicament and the even bleaker outlook they now face are more than just the consequence of Britain’s chronic housing shortage.
They argue that they also illustrate multiple shortcomings in the way the system operates.
“Our situation has changed with Alex’s diagnosis,” explains Michelle.
This isn’t a problem caused by a wicked landlord, or tenant trying to fleece the system
“It’s getting to the stage where he requires adapted housing so it’s easier to use the bathroom and have mobility aids.
“Our landlord wanting his flat back was separate to that.
“We need to move on anyway because private rentals do not allow properties to be permanently adapted.”
Their case also disproves the stereotypical way the rental sector is often portrayed, adds Stuart.
“This isn’t a problem caused by a wicked landlord, or tenant trying to fleece the system,” he says.
The family have been ready to move for months, living in this condition
“I work and we’re not in arrears.”
When the family first alerted Hounslow to their difficulties they say they were offered more private options which did not address or solve their problem.
“We felt for all our providing medical evidence about Alex from Great Ormond Street Hospital, which he attends, and doctors’ reports.
“But none of it was taken notice of,” says Michelle.
“We were told we did not qualify for social housing.”
The family have been trying to find social housing through their council Hounslow for months
Matters started to come to a head last autumn when the family got a possession notice which they say the council urged them to fight.
“We were not made aware at first this Section 21 action could mean we would be liable for court costs if we lost,” adds Michelle.
“When we realised we were terrified,”
The case was adjourned, says the landlord BKM Homes, because not all the rental documents were to hand on the day, but resumed in November.
Then, says BKM, in an informal discussion before the court hearing that included it and Hounslow’s tenancy sustainability officer Taslima Gbaja-Biamila “we agreed to waive our costs, £9,271, over the possession order as the family’s request for social housing would be assisted before November 8.”
Alex is affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
But that date came and went with no action.
“We didn’t want to see the family having to leave over Christmas so left it until January.
“Eviction will now happen,” BKM told Crusader.
When asked to comment on the family’s plight, Cllr Katherine Dunne, Hounslow Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “The council has been working with the family in question very closely.
“From the council’s perspective, the landlord didn’t follow the correct eviction process and therefore the family can continue to reside at their current home address.
BKM told the Crusader that the family will now be evicted
“The family is seeking council housing within walking distance of their current area and schooling which is not possible.
“The council medical officer has also confirmed that medically there is nothing to stop the family from using public transport.
“The family has also been advised about the shortage of social housing in Hounslow and they have been further advised that we will assist them to move to another suitable private rented accommodation – so far they have refused this help.”
But Michelle strongly rejects this.
“No medical officer has ever met Alex yet they say he can go on public transport.
The family showed evidence sprovided by Great Ormond Street Hospital of their son’s condition
“I will always be grateful to BKM for deferring the eviction so we could stay over Christmas,” she added.
“We’ve been packed up for months, the uncertainty has been terrible for the children.
“Yet opposite our flat is a council-owned property that has been empty for a while.
“There has to be a better way of doing things.”
See below for free housing advice, and visit Shelter https://england.shelter.org.uk/get.help
For those eligible for Legal Aid (i.e. on a low income or receiving benefits) who want to challenge how their case for social housing is or was considered by their local authority, they can call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345.
There are now more than 128,000 homeless children in Britain
Homeless: Shelter’s guide to getting help from your council
There are now more than 128,000 homeless children in Britain.
More than one million people a year contact leading charity Shelter for advice and support via its website, helplines and national network of services.
Here is its guide to emergency and social housing.
You can apply to the council for help finding somewhere to live if you’re homeless now or if you’re going to be homeless within the next 28 days.
The council must help you if you’re legally homeless.
How much help you can get depends on your circumstances – you may get housing or just advice.
If the council thinks you qualify for short-term emergency housing, it should find you a place to stay.
The council then assesses your application to decide if you qualify for longer-term help.
If you qualify for longer-term housing, you usually have to stay in temporary housing until settled housing becomes available.
If you don’t qualify for help, the council should advise you on how to find somewhere else to stay.
You need to be legally homeless to quality for long-term housing from your council
To qualify for long-term housing from your council, all the following 5 conditions must apply to you.
To qualify for emergency housing, the council must think conditions 1 to 3 apply to you.
1. You need to be legally homeless
To qualify for help, you must be classed as ‘legally homeless’.
This includes if you:
• have been evicted from your home
• need to leave due to violence
• can’t stay due to a fire or flood
• are sleeping on the street
• will lose your home within 28 days (for example, if you’re going to be evicted)
• have been asked to leave somewhere temporary (such as a friend’s house)
Pregnant women are more likely to be considered a ‘priority’ by the council
2. You need to be a priority for help
To qualify for help, you or someone in your household must be in ‘priority need’.
You are likely to be in priority need if you’re a young person aged 16 or 17 (social services usually have to help you) or a care leaver under 21.
You will be in priority need if you’re:
• a family with children under 16
• a family with children under 19 (if they are in full-time education)
• homeless due to a disaster such as a fire or flood
• classed as ‘vulnerable’
You may be classed as vulnerable if, for example, you are disabled or have a serious health condition or you are at risk of domestic abuse.
If you have immigration or residence restrictions, it could mean the council can’t help you
3. You need to be allowed to live in the UK
If you have immigration or residence restrictions, it could mean the council can’t help you.
You usually qualify for help if you:
• are a British or Irish citizen living in the UK
• are from the EU or EEA and are living and working in the UK
• have Home Office permission to stay in the UK and are allowed to claim benefits
The council won’t help you if it believes you made yourself homeless
4. You need to be homeless through no fault of your own
To qualify for longer-term help, you must be homeless through no fault of your own.
The council won’t help you if it believes you made yourself homeless.
This is called being ‘intentionally homeless’.
5. You need to have links to the area
For instance you have lived there for over 6 months or work in the area.
An housing officer will interview you to analyse your request
How to apply
1. Contact your local council and tell it you need to apply as homeless.
It’s best to go to the office as soon as it opens.
You may need to wait to be seen.
They’ll make an appointment for a housing officer to interview you.
This should be the same day if you have nowhere to stay that night.
It’s important to tell the council about anything that makes it hard to deal with being homeless
2. Go to your interview with the council
Take the right documents with you to your interview.
It will speed up your application if you take proof of:
• identity (for example, passport or ID card)
• why you have to leave your home (for example, eviction notice)
If possible, also take proof of:
• income (for example, bank statements, wage slips, proof of benefits)
• children (for example, child benefit or tax credit letter and birth certificates)
• pregnancy (a letter from your doctor or midwife)
• medical conditions (a letter from your doctor or hospital)
• immigration status (a passport or other document that shows you have the right to live in the UK).
It’s important to tell the council about anything that makes it hard for you to deal with being homeless.
It can help to take someone with you for support and to take notes.
During your interview the housing officer should explain the application process clearly to you.
They’ll also ask questions about your situation and how you became homeless.
The council should come to a decision within 33 working days
3. Find out if you’ll get housing.
The council will assess your application to work out how much help you can get.
This depends on your circumstances – find out more about who qualifies for housing.
If you have nowhere to live and the council thinks you are likely to qualify for help, you usually have to stay in emergency housing.
This lasts until the council decides if you are entitled to longer-term housing.
The council should come to a decision within 33 working days.
The council will write to tell you its decision.