In the constant battle of attrition between tenants and residents, stories of how landlords harass those who complain abound.
Like all bullying, it is an act of cowardice borne of fear, and a desire to silence dissenting voices.
Disabled tenants and residents with mental health conditions are routinely accused of anti-social behaviour if they veer from social norms in their interactions with their landlords.
One example (horror of horrors), was the insistence on prior notice of appointments for repairs instead of intrusive cold-calling, as described by Carl Davis in The Anatomy of a Reasonable Adjustment.
Other strategies involving legal threats are also used to whip those who don’t echo the “we are great” narrative housing associations work so hard to project.
One such case that of One Housing Group (OHG) resident Peter Chan* who recently highlighted the malicious use of parking fines against him. OHG’s ire appears to have been triggered when Peter insisted on such unreasonable demands as accurate service charge bills, a safe and secure basement car park, and access to constant running water instead of the hit-and-miss provision they currently receive.
The Car Park Problem
Peter’s flat is owned by One Housing Group, now part of Riverside Housing. A new company was brought in a few years ago to manage the basement car park after residents asked for the area to be redecorated and made safe.
The scheme was introduced with OHG’s customary incompetence, without consultation, and apparently without any attempt to make sure the management company was capable of enforcing parking restrictions. This begs the question as to why this particular company was selected.
Enforcement attendants issued multiple tickets for the same incident, and patrolled the property in the middle of the night, tailgating females into the basement. Enforcers were hard to identify since they wore no uniform and drove unmarked cars. To residents returning home, the mysterious figures haunting the basement could be anyone. Their behaviour has created a sinister and intimidating space, especially for women residents, but uncomfortable for all.
There are no physical restrictions put in place to stop cars from parking in allocated bays, like a £50 lockable bollard. There have been numerous occasions when the garage gates have been broken and left wide open for anyone to park their cars, whether resident or not.
The basement which houses the car park has been in a constant state of disrepair. Numerous floods and leakages have prevented access to at least half of the parking bays, forcing residents to abandon their allocated slots, and park wherever they could find a space.
Shooting the Messenger
The chaos caused by OHG’s mismanagement of the scheme has enabled them to harass and intimidate residents, especially those who have complained about other aspects of the landlord’s operation.
Peter has recently challenged OHG over inaccuracies in his service charges, refusing to pay until the landlord could evidence legitimate spend. He also wrote to complain about water outages and OHG’s poor and dismissive response to families left without this essential service.
Coincidentally, Peter recently started receiving letters from Gladstones Solicitors. The letters ask Peter to pay parking fines dating back to 2020 which now total £510, and are apparently incurring interest on a daily basis. They warn that if he doesn’t pay up, OHG will take Peter to a small claims court.
The alleged offences took place at the end of 2020, but the letters demanding payment began reappearing in May 2022
Comparing the dates on the letters and those on the schedule of alleged parking offences however, something fishy becomes evident. Although the alleged offences took place in November and December 2020, Gladstones Solicitors ceased attempting to pursue the fines at the time because residents complained about the poor condition of the facility, and that some of the bays were unusable. All went silent until Peter raised his most recent complaint against OHG.
The fact that these claims have been outstanding for well over a year and only resumed on the exact dates I received responses to my OHG complaint is revealing. It is hard to consider the timing a coincidence.
“I personally think the chasing letters were initiated by OHG out of malice, as an attempt to penalise me or deter me from following through with my complaints which are in the process of being looked at by the Housing Ombudsman. It reeks of petty malicious behaviour.”Peter Chan, OHG Resident
Peter has young children and the easiest access to his property is through the basement. The fines all relate to occasions when either he or his partner were unable to park in their allocated bay due to flooding or disrepairs.
One Housing’s main priority needs to be the maintenance, renewing and securing of the car park, instead of trying to siphon more funds out of residents on top of increasing yearly service charges. It’s a disgusting malicious practice that needs to stop. I will not be bullied or intimidated”Peter Chan, OHG Resident
SHAC Talks with the OHG and Riverside Executives
SHAC@OHG-Riverside wrote to the executives of the landlord to ask for a meeting at which we will be able to highlight systemic bad management and the victimisation of those who challenge it. The meeting is scheduled for early July.
Before then, SHAC’s OHG and Riverside members will meet at 6.30pm on Wednesday 22nd June to collectively agree what issues they want to raise, and to elect delegates to attend the executive meeting.
SHAC will continue agitating against bad housing association landlords, opposing the mistreatment of tenants and residents, and highlighting the many problems of commercialisation. We are exposing a sector that puts the interests of tenants and residents well below the landlord’s desire to satisfy the greed of their city investors.
Register with SHAC and join us in our fight.
* Peter Chan’s name has been changed to protect his identity and keep him safe from further victimisation.
22 June 2022
If you have a WordPress account, you can keep up to date with our blogs by subscribing to our site below: