Open letter to Chuka regarding Clavia
To: Chuka Umunna – Chuka.Umunna.MP@parliament.uk
cc: Clavia XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
From: Lambeth Housing Activists – firstname.lastname@example.org
16th August 2017
Dear Chuka Umunna
We, Lambeth Housing Activists, are writing on behalf of your constituent CLAVIA xxxxxx formerly of 64 xxxxxxx London, SW2 xxx, now homeless, who has had to turn to us for help with her housing situation after being evicted from her home by Lambeth Council last Wednesday.
Clavia xxxxxxx has tried to get an appointment to see you on numerous occasions to no avail. You are her MP therefore we are asking you to intervene in this desperate situation.
Clavia and her two young children (aged 8 & 2) were evicted from their home on Wednesday 9th August.
At present she and her two children are having to sleep on the floor without mattresses at her mother’s home. There are cockroaches and mice.
She cannot be said to have done, or failed to have done, something which caused her to have to leave her home. She is a responsible sole parent and would never have done anything to risk the loss of a home for her children.
Lambeth Council cite the reason for her eviction is that she is in rent arrears.
Clavia was in regular contact with Lambeth Council. Her housing benefit was paid directly to her landlord and she believed that her rent was covered.
Clavia disputes the amount owed and estimates that at least £2,000 of the alleged debt is because money was allocated elsewhere, for which she has recorded all the dates and full amount due.
Lambeth has not taken fully into account information on income, outlay, benefits, working tax credit, and notification of her son’s birth in xxxxxx.
When Clavia attended court on 4th May 2017 for the possession hearing, she had no legal representation, as her solicitor could not attend because Lambeth did not provide the Schedule of Housing Benefit payments to her landlord, which he had requested, which resulted in him not being able to compile her defence evidence. Clavia has also been consistently asking for the Schedule of HB payments, but Lambeth consistently just send her rent statement instead. Clavia and Lambeth Housing Activists also asked for this on Monday at Olive Morris House, but once again, all Lambeth Council provided her with was another rent statement.
We would also like to take this opportunity to point out various errors on Lambeth’s letter to Clavia which was given to her when they evicted her, titled “Discharge of Duty under s.193 (2)”.
To begin with, it was correctly addressed to Clavia Chambers, 64 xxxxxxx London SW2 xxx but:
1. The subject line then states “Re: 66 xxxxxxxxxx”
2. Then further on it says “was it reasonable for you to continue to occupy the accommodation?
i. I am satisfied that the accommodation at 86B Queenstown Road, London SW8 3RY was reasonable for your family to occupy.”
3. Then “It is the conclusion of this Authority that you have become homeless intentionally from your accommodation at 86B Queenstown Road.”
4. Finally “The Judge has granted a possession order in respect of your accommodation at 86B Queenstown Road, London SW8 3RY.”
This therefore brings into question how many times Lambeth might have got Clavia’s address wrong and have they made mistakes with her rent arrears? It shows the chaotic way in which her benefits & rent have been dealt with.
We are asking you to intervene and that you request urgently from Lambeth:
1. Schedule of housing benefit payments made to the landlord since July 2012
2. Summary of housing benefit award since July 2012
3. Whether any gaps in housing benefit claim since July 2012
Lambeth Council has a duty to provide suitable, secure temporary accommodation because Clavia fulfils the following criteria:
NOT INTENTIONALLY HOMELESS
Clavia can supply evidence of the income received and the delays in housing benefit payments which were contributory factors in her being evicted.
She sought employment so as not to be dependent on benefits. Ironically had she remained out of work, she would have been in a more secure housing situation.
HOMELESS OR THREATENED WITH HOMELESSNESS
The Chambers family should be regarded as homeless. They were evicted for reasons not merely beyond their control, but directly related to the late housing benefit payments from Lambeth Council.
ELIGIBLE FOR ASSISTANCE
Clavia is eligible for assistance because her children are aged 8 and 2 and Clavia is their sole parent.
DUTY TO MAKE ENQUIRES
Lambeth Council has a duty to consider Clavia’s case. She took part time, low paid work and every time she worked her benefits were thrown into chaos.
INTERIM ACCOMMODATION DUTY (S188)
Temporary accommodation has been denied, however Lambeth Council has a duty of care to find somewhere for them to live in this borough whilst this case is assessed.
DUTY TO SECURE PERSONAL POSSESSIONS (S211)
Clavia has already lost possessions in the hurried way she was forced to leave her home. It is requested that to avoid the risk of the families property being lost or damaged, that the authority make suitable arrangements to protect her remaining property.
In 2008 Clavia lost her job and could no longer afford to continue to pay the rent on her home at the time.
Since that time Clavia has had to live in temporary accommodation. She has had to endure all the stress involved of having to move nine times with her two small children.
She lived in a hostel in Brixton but there were drug abusers next door and it was deemed unsuitable, so she was moved to a Mother & Baby unit in Streatham.
She was then moved to Shrubbery Road SW16, a new build where the faulty lighting led to bath water leaking into the light fittings.
After this was a maisonette in Drewstead Road SW16 where there was a manhole in the hallway of the property which leaked sewage into the flat when the toilet was flushed.
The result of this was that in addition to the stench the carpet became impregnated with sewage.
Axxx, as a crawling baby, developed a nasty skin reaction.
The council took no responsibility and the letting agent’s response was to hoover the carpet!!
When a sewage flood occurred at Christmas 2010 Clavia bought and paid for a new carpet herself. She can provide the receipt.
In 2011 it flooded again, after numerous phone calls an Environment Officer finally visited and the outcome was that the property was condemned and it was roped off.
She then ended up in a B&B in Brockley.
The outcome of over three years of constant stress was now beginning to take its toll on Clavia, she was having to contend with xxxxxxxx and was prescribed strong pain killers for acute back pain, all due to the ongoing stress of her situation, at the time Clavia’s GP wrote a letter of support.
Next came a B&B in Sydenham until July 2012
In July 2012, she was encouraged to move into 64 xxxxxxx, a private landlord let to Lambeth Council. She asked to view the property but was refused. She had to get a loan to furnish it. She bought two halogen heaters and spent £50 a week on heating the bedroom to keep her small son warm because it was so cold and damp. The housing officer, George Graham, witnessed the wet walls when it rained outside.
Clavia takes prescribed medication for xxxxxxxxxx. She is suffering from stress and depression.
Her two-year-old son is not healthy at the best of times, he is an asthmatic outpatient at Kings College Hospital and has been hospitalised on more than one occasion. This current situation is severely challenging his immune system, as his doctor will confirm.
CONNECTION WITH THE LAMBETH AREA
The Chambers family have a strong network in Lambeth. Clavia has lived in Lambeth for 18 years. Her mother has lived in Streatham for 23 years and continues to do so.
Axxxx (d.o.b. xxxxxx) is about to start Year 4 at xxxxxx Primary School and has been there since reception.
Mxxxxx (d.o.b. xxxxx) goes to xxxxxx Playschool in Streatham.
The children’s grandmother lives in Streatham.
Clavia has had two GP’s. xxxxxx Surgery and when she xxxxxxxx in 2013, xxxxxxxx Surgery.
In view of all the above, we request that Lambeth Council allows Clavia to return home to 64 xxxxxx while this appalling situation is being reviewed.
Lambeth Housing Activists