A housing association has been slammed for trying to evict nine Bermondsey households in a “nightmare scenario” that “could have been avoided”.
Notting Hill Housing Trust’s (NHHT) private rental arm, Folio, is making moves to evict families who moved to the St James’ Estate on assured shorthold tenancies because of “high arrears”.
Despite an agreement in 2013 between NHHT and residents for a rent increase cap of ten per cent in any one year, arrears are said to have breached the acceptable amount prompting evictions.
Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said: “Little appears to have been done to ensure everyone affected by ten per cent or more annual rent increases have been able to meet the higher costs.
“Salaries and other incomes haven’t risen by these levels. It’s a nightmare scenario which Notting Hill could have helped avoid. It is certainly not the behaviour anyone would expect from a housing association.”
Some residents affected, however, claim NHHT’s records of the arrears from 2011, when they took over the estate, are incorrect.
One resident, James Briley, says he has been taken to court by NHHT every year since 2011 but each time he has had the case thrown out as the judge “is not satisfied with the evidence”.
He told the News: “They’re trying to evict me and they’re already advertising my house!
“They [Folio] keep saying I have high arrears from 2011, but their documents are wrong.
“I am so stressed. I have gone through the documents day in, day out but my figures are always different to theirs. It makes us feel sick. We have requested for them to come and see us. It’s all about money from my point of view.
“I am 39 and no one is obliged to house me if I leave. We have not got a clue where we would go.”
Another resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “I had to get a doorstep loan to pay off the money I owe, so I know I don’t have arrears.
“It makes you angry because they say they’re helping people but they’re not. My kids have seen me cry and they don’t understand why.”
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, Leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrats, said: “Liberal Democrat Councillors have been supporting a number of St James’ Estate residents and have demanded urgent action from the Notting Hill Housing Group.
“The rent increases and eviction threats are outrageous and simply unacceptable”
A NHHT spokesperson said: “When we took ownership of the properties we were not aware of any errors and we had the records checked as part of the acquisition of the St James’ Estate.
“If residents who lived at St James’ in 2011 think there were errors at the time we acquired the estate, we can ask the previous landlord if they can provide further information.
“We are always happy to discuss residents’ issues and any resident with concerns should contact Folio London.
“However, we are unable to go into any further detail regarding the personal financial situation of our tenants.”