Reports and Campaigns
Reports and campaigns:
Defend council tenants from eviction!
Paul Heron and Paul Kershaw
On Friday 12 August 2011 Tory-controlled Wandsworth council in London issued a press release which said: "A council tenant whose son has appeared in court charged in connection with Monday night's disturbances in Clapham Junction will today (Friday) be served with an eviction notice."
It is clear that other local authorities including Greenwich, Hammersmith & Fulham and Salford, as well as housing associations, are queuing up to begin proceedings against their tenants too.
In Wandsworth, the notice beginning eviction proceedings has been served on a lone parent - she is the tenant. The young person accused is 18 years of age and is not the tenant, although he lives at the property. Also, so far, although charged, it is understood the case has not concluded.
The press release from Wandsworth council came within 24 hours of the Con-Dem government giving the green light to this kind of legal action. They don't spell out where they think these people and their children will end up.
Eric Pickles, the Communities minister, has said he will make sure they are deemed 'intentionally homeless' and will therefore be unable to get assistance.
As the law stands it is likely that the council will seek to rely on Ground 2 - either because of 'nuisance or annoyance' but more likely 'criminal activity'. This refers to both the tenant who is affected but also "a person residing in...the dwelling house."
To have a chance of obtaining an order for possession from the court, the person has to have been "convicted of, an indictable offence committed in, or in the locality of, the dwelling house."
So, if the young person in question is not convicted, the case should not succeed. If the young person is convicted a number of other factors come into play - was the offence committed in the locality, would eviction be 'reasonable', and is it proportionate?
But the government say they want to remove even these restrictions. Would this mean just being arrested, and not being convicted would be sufficient? Could this be a future ground for eviction if you live in social housing?
If the rioter was in the locality but is not the tenant, eg a member of the household, or even a visitor, the tenant would still potentially be caught by the existing grounds.
This would be the case even if the tenant had no involvement at all or didn't even know what the other person did.
The government already has plans for short-term tenancies for people in social housing, plans to move people out who they deem to be earning 'too much' and plans to cut benefits for tenants they believe are 'under-occupying'. If you live in social housing and you thought your home was 'yours' watch out; the government has other ideas.
Wandsworth council itself has been excluding thousands of households from affordable housing since 1978 by aggressively promoting Thatcher's 'Right to Buy'. It is now re-writing the allocation policy to disadvantage non-working households.
It is also proposing to increase rents to 80% of the market rate so most working households will not be able to afford them either.
People's lives can be made a misery by anti-social behaviour and by riots. But the government is cynically using this misery to undermine social housing further, not to resolve the problems.