Social housing residents struggle with getting landlords to carry out essential home repairs

Many thousands of social housing residents are struggling with disrepair in their home. We recently reported that new statistics from homeless charity, Shelter, indicate that approximately 2.5 million people have had a problem with their homes and one in 10 had to report it 10 times before it was dealt with by their landlord. More than half of the people living in social housing in England have experienced a problem with their home in the past three years, including electrical faults, gas leaks and faulty lifts.

One example cited in a recent Sky News story, is the story of Michael Mohid, 70, who has lived in the same council flat in Southeast London for more than 30 years. He says the flat has been permanently damaged by four major floods in his 30 years of living there.

“When I had a flood in the downstairs toilet, the council didn’t fix it for weeks because it had asbestos panelling,” he said. “I had to walk through the flood water every morning; I tried to mop it but couldn’t keep up with it.”

On other occasions, Mr Mohid said the flat was without electricity for three weeks and, in a separate incident, a crack in the wall of his flat meant that every time it rained, water entered the property and affected his carpet, which he repeatedly reported before anything was done. Mr Mohid said that living in these types of conditions, “makes you very stressed”.

Another social housing resident, Karen Connelly, 54, lives on the same housing estate and has been campaigning for residents for more than a decade. She has previously been awarded £4,000 in compensation from Southwark Council after being exposed to asbestos.  She said, “We are dealing with faulty electrics, raw sewage and the heating and hot water never works.”

She said, “People are at their wits end. They are scared, anxious and angry and don’t feel like they are being listened to.” Clearly, she feels that more needs to be done by social landlords to ensure that residents are safe and happy in their homes.

“The whole complaints procedure for any disrepair is harrowing. Every step of the way we are treated like second-rate citizens.” Evidently, the issues go deeper than just the living conditions that some of these tenants are expected to put up with for months, or even years, at a time.

Councillor Kieron Williams, Cabinet member for housing management and modernisation at Southwark Council said “As the landlord of London’s largest social housing stock, it is a mammoth task to manage our repairs in a timely way and successive cuts are central government to council budgets have only made it harder.”

“However, we always strive to deliver the very highest standards of service to our tenants and as a council we are proud to have an 89% repair satisfaction rate from our residents.” However, clearly there are some tenants who are not getting the necessary care.

The research comes almost two years after the Grenfell Tower fire, which exposed some of the failures of social housing in the UK. There have since been calls for tougher regulations to better protect people living in social housing.

Shelter Chief Executive Polly Neate said “Tenants were not listened to at Grenfell and they are still not being listened to in social housing up and down the country.”

“They are acutely aware of that and its leading them to fear for their safety, which is hardly surprising given what happened at Grenfell, so what we really need is a new regulator that will hear tenants concerns, and follow them up and be accountable to tenants themselves.”

A spokesperson form the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said “no one should be forced to live in unsafe housing and we are working closely with Grenfell United and others to ensure social homes are safe and issues are resolved quickly. In our recent social housing Green Paper consultation we set out proposals to re-balance the relationship between residents and landlords to tackle stigma and ensure residents voices are heard, and we will publish our response before the summer recess…”

At CEL Solicitors, we meet people every day who are living in social housing that just isn’t up to scratch. Some of these families have lived in the same property for decades and they don’t necessarily want to move; they simply want their home to be safe and for repairs to be dealt with in a timely manner. Despite the claims made by some of the people in power that things are changing, there are still lots of people in desperate situations.

If your social home has fallen into disrepair and your landlord isn’t doing enough to put things right, contact us today for a free housing disrepair claim assessment, on 0808 273 0900.