Friday, 26 August 2011

Wandsworth Council May Evict Tenants for Riot Involvement


By Ben Aulakh

Council tenants in two London Boroughs are facing eviction after allegedly being involved in the London riots.

Letters have been sent by Southwark Council to 35 of its social housing residents telling them that if they are found guilty of criminal offences related to the rioting, they will be kicked out of their properties under the housing act.

One tenant in Wandsworth has already been served with an eviction notice after her son was charged, but not convicted, of involvement in unrest in Clapham on August 8.

Eileen Short, Chair of Defend Council Housing commented on the proposed evictions, “These plans amount to the victimisation of council tenants. Council housing is not subsidised and we are not second class citizens to whom different laws should apply.

“Failure to invest in council housing and the stigmatising of council tenants have already fed into the alienation of young people on our estates, this makes a mockery of tenancy law to give landlords such sweeping powers to evict.”

The eviction notice states that the council will be seeking possession of the property, and that an application will be made to the court to approve the eviction.

Council leader Ravi Govindia, writing in The Times newspaper defended the local authority’s decision to have the tenants thrown out.

He said, “Wandsworth Council has been criticised for its decision to evict tenants if they - or one of their household - are found guilty of being involved in the looting and rioting.

“We did not come to this decision lightly and it was not a knee-jerk reaction. We wanted to send out a clear message: actions have consequences.”

 “Having the long-term security of a council flat or house is privileged positions that, as the waiting lists show, many people aspire to; with that privilege comes a sense of responsibility to your neighbour and your neighbourhood.”

He added that if tenants or members of their households did not take that responsibility seriously, Wandsworth Council would enforce its side of the contract.

Cllr Govindia also derided as ‘nonsense’ the suggestion that anyone evicted from council housing would end up on the streets.

He said that they would simply find a home through the private rental market, and would still receive their benefit.

However a spokesperson for Defend Council housing questioned the legality of such a decision.

They said, “It is highly dubious whether there is a legal basis for this, and there is certainly no justice in singling out tenants in this way.

“Councils already have powers to deal with nuisance behaviour affecting neighbours within council estates.”

“The criminal law is there to punish those who do commit crimes; it is an offence against natural justice to single out one particular group, council tenants, for the additional drastic penalty of losing their homes.”

Thus far although Southwark Council have informed a number of those living in social housing in the borough they could face eviction, no one has yet been forced to leave their home.

Ian Wingfield, Southwark’s member for housing said, “We want to send a clear message to these individuals that if they are convicted there are serious consequences to their actions which for some could result in their eventual eviction.”

Eleven other councils across the country whose boroughs were caught up in the rioting have thus far not issued any warnings of eviction to residents.


Photograph from www.firstnews.co.uk

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