By Carl Davis
A lot of the recent shocking media coverage on disrepair in the social housing sector focussed on huge remote and faceless corporate providers like Clarion, L&Q, and Notting Hill Genesis. But this fails to capture the experience of people housed by smaller, rogue and failing social landlords.
For example, Chantele – not her real name – has spent years trying to get her social landlord to address disrepair, only to find herself caught up in an ongoing bureaucratic nightmare and exhausting war of attrition with her heavy handed and anything but supportive social landlord.
She lives in a property owned by a small housing association and registered charity that claims to specialise in housing and supporting women,
MyLondon News and other channels have helped highlight housing association disrepairs
It’s an all too familiar depressing story for social tenants.
Chantele was forced to take legal action to try to get the disrepair in the south London home she shares with her son addressed, but it has taken a massive toll on her physical and mental health. Chantele, who is disabled, feels on the brink of a catastrophic breakdown and fears that her landlord’s hostile behaviour towards her has been detrimental to her son’s mental health as well.
Disrepairs, Complaints Mishandling, and Disability Intersect
Reporting disrepair often brings tenants and residents into direct conflict with their social landlords as complaints mishandling is another systemic problem in the sector. Social landlords often deal with legitimate complaints about disrepair as if the complainant rather than the disrepair was the problem to be managed.
It’s easy to see why some social landlords invest more time and energy in victimising the victims of disrepair rather than addressing it. Ignoring disrepair saves money. It is often cheaper to pay a court fine or Ombudsman compensation order to the tenant than it is to address the disrepair.
As the ITV investigation into the scandalous management of disrepair in the sector repeatedly hammered home, there is also a prevailing and deeply stigmatising attitude within the sector, amplified elsewhere, that social housing tenants and residents are undeserving. This attitude says that such tenants should be grateful that they are housed at all, no matter what conditions they are forced to live in.
So tenants and residents reporting disrepair often become unavoidably embroiled in one-sided battles with their powerful social landlords. Disabled tenants and residents like Chantele suffer disproportionately. Their disabilities and the impact that living with prolonged disrepair can have on them are conveniently regarded as problems to be ignored or heavy-handedly managed away too.
In countless cases, social landlords have refused to acknowledge and address reasonable adjustment requests too. Often these requests are for things as simple as providing notice of appointments.
Chantele experienced this as after fighting to get her social landlord to stop dragging its heels and blaming her, and just address the disrepairs in her home. Now, managers and contractors turn up at her home whenever they feel like it, making her life and relationship with her social landlord even more difficult.
Chantele finds the situation she’s been placed in by her social landlord terribly distressing and says that above all else, she just wants the disrepair in her home addressed. She wants to move on, but her landlord’s behaviour, and the way they treat her as the problem, is preventing this. It is having a devastating impact on her already poor physical and mental health and well-being.
SHAC Disibility Visibility Charter
SHAC has recently launched a Disability Visibility Charter to help tenants and residents, and their social landlords, address some of these problems. We welcome contact from responsible landlords who are interested in discussing the Charter. Email SHAC.
See more about SHAC’s Disability Visibility campaign and the Charter Scheme here.
19 July 2022
If you have a WordPress account, you can keep up to date with our blogs by subscribing to our site below: