The programme went behind the scenes to show the work being done by the council’s housing department to manage properties, including insights into council officers’ duties, as well as interviews with various tenants.
The series demonstrated the sheer volume of properties being managed by Southwark Council, but it did not tell viewers about the high number of housing disrepair claims against the local authority. In fact, as of October 2020, CEL Solicitors has settled a total of 109 cases against Southwark Council, with more than 70 further live cases.
Complaints from Southwark Council tenants included vermin and cockroach infestations, severe damp and broken windows, with many residents waiting years for repairs to be carried out.
Among those affected by such conditions was one of CEL’s clients, Veronica. The mother-of-one’s two-bedroomed flat in Southwark was infested with cockroaches when she first moved in with her son in 2008. The property was in severe disrepair, with broken windows and doors, graffiti-covered walls and a cockroach infestation making it ‘barely liveable’, according to Veronica.
But, despite numerous complaints over the course of more than a decade, Southwark Council failed to solve the disrepairs, forcing Veronica to attempt to treat the damp herself. Finally she sought legal support from CEL.
Veronica was awarded £2,000 in compensation in May 2019, plus a guarantee of repairs being made. However, Southwark Council failed to complete the necessary repairs within the specified timeframe and we earned a further £1,000 compensation for Veronica in August 2020.
Amy Tagoe, housing disrepair specialist and director at CEL Solicitors, said: “We always advise clients to contact their landlord about disrepairs in the first instance.
“But, many of our Southwark clients, like Veronica, have waited years, in some cases up to a decade, for repairs that haven’t been made – these are people who feel they have no voice and have tried to get answers from the council before even considering legal action. With many people having no idea that they can bring a housing disrepair claim, I suspect many more residents are living in unfit properties.”
To read the full article and to see Southwark Council’s response, visit: London News Online