Thursday, 7 February 2013
Homeless Part 1 - The Current Rant
What does it mean to be homeless? Well, we are about to become homeless. We currently rent a house privately, and our landlord now wants his house back. He used to live in Jersey, but now has returned to live in England, and of course he would like to live in his own house.
I've been homeless before. When I left Samuel's dad. In Part 2 I will talk about that.
So what's happening now? Well, I'm in tears, daily. My husband is nearly in tears, daily. We are frustrated, angry and quite honestly wondering what the future will hold.
As I said, we rent the house we currently live in. When we moved in I was on maternity leave and Gary was working. I stopped working when our daughter was born, but Gary's wage and a top up from housing benefit meant that we have been able to continue to live here. More recently Gary has stopped working due to severe arthritis of his right hip, and also having arthritis in his left hip.
We had already applied to Christchurch housing register, a wise move to make when private renting is the only other housing option. Thinking long term of course. We also applied to Poole housing register as my parents live there and ideally we need to be closer to them for support, particularly when Gary eventually has a hip replacement procedure. Samuel goes to a special school that is more local to Poole than here in Christchurch, so it makes sense that we look to move to Poole.
Initial enquiries were a shock. Given that we are on full housing benefit and do not have a guarantor mean that private landlords will not take us. In fact, many letting agents are putting the phone down on us the minute we mention housing benefit, regardless of the guarantor factor. The Housing Department of the council continue to tell us that there are landlords who will rent to us, and the letting agents continue to tell us that we are unlikely to find a landlord willing to take us on. Someone is lying.
Today we phoned round at least 8 suitable properties. A couple had already been let and the others were not willing to accept housing benefit tenants. Some letting agents we spoke to were sympathetic, others were rude and unhelpful.
We also made a trip to Poole Housing Department, to hand in our Section 21 notice - giving us notice to leave this property. While there we spoke to a Housing Advisor for advice as to our best options.
The first option suggested to us: remain in our current property beyond the notice period and end of fixed tenancy period, thus becoming "squatters". Our landlord would then have to apply to the courts to evict us and we would then have to wait for bailiffs to visit to do so.
My question to the housing officer was: "but wouldn't that mean we would remain homeless and then no other private landlord would want to rent to us". The answer was "yes".
The second option was to continue to fruitlessly telephone every property that we see to ask if the landlord will accept us. We need a 3 bedroom property. We were advised not to seek a smaller property and put ourselves in an "overcrowded" situation. This option will ultimately lead to option three.
The third option is the homeless route, if we can't find a landlord to take us then 28 days before the end of our fixed tenancy we would have to make a homeless application. We would then go on the homeless list while our claim is investigated. Once we actually become homeless at the end of our tenancy we would then be allocated bed and breakfast accommodation, i.e. one room for all five of us, shared bathroom and no cooking facilities. (overcrowded? yet they advise we don't house ourselves in an overcrowded situation?).
So, yes, our stress levels are just a little bit high at the moment. We are checking with agents, gumtree, rightmove, zoopla etc, all the adverts for private rental.
While I appreciate that we should not "expect" to be housed. After all, we are not currently a working family, I am gutted that our only option is looking like one room in a B&B while there are single people and couples occupying larger council homes than they require. And, there of course are a huge number of people occupying social housing that work, and would easily be able to secure private rental, yet we cannot secure either.
On top of all this is the fact that Samuel is likely to suffer greatly when he gets wind of what's happening. He worries a lot and as he currently doesn't sleep, the additional worry of this situation is likely to make this worse for him. Oliver needs to be registered for pre-school, but I can't do that with not knowing where we will be living, and in September registration starts for proper school for him.
We can pay our rent, we can pay a deposit. What makes us lepers? Is it a stigma? Landlords, why won't you rent to us, why won't you give us a chance? We just want a home and to be given the chance to get back on our feet.
I've owned my own properties before, and we've rented before, on all occasions I've never missed a single payment. This is my frustration.
Landlords are just discriminating against non working families, and our government is allowing that discrimination to happen, yet they won't help families like mine to find accommodation. How about an insurance for tenants? You know, like you have if you have a mortgage, an insurance in case you lose your income. There must be some way of allowing housing benefit claimants to rent properties. It just seems like nobody wants us.
Maybe B&B accommodation is to be our lot....many would probably think that it is all we deserve as a non working family. But my husband did work for 25 years solidly, and I worked for 20 years with just a 6 month maternity leave gap and 1 years maternity leave at the end of my working career to date.
Over 40 years work behind us and we are a homeless family of 5.