Residents of estates run by our Council recently received this circular letter. I have been sent a copy by some of them and one in particular has written to express their fear over what this all might mean. The letter itself sounds fairly innocuous, the Council has appointed a company to check that they have the right details for residents and the letter is obviously needed so that people expect the knock at the door.
But in a mark of the lack of faith that now exists between our Council as a landlord and its tenants, after stories of estates being flogged off to property developers to knock down, residents are smelling a rat.
Recently tenants of our Council have lobbied parliament to take control of their homes away from the Council as a "rogue landlord" under new legislation and Mayor Boris Johnson has even warned of "Kosovo style cleansing" of the poor from London. All of which provokes unbridled fury among the Tories of H&F who regard such claims as ridiculous - they are committed to improving housing for everyone, and have offered "cast iron guarantees" that people who are forced to move to make way for redevelopments will be able to stay in the Borough.
But it's clear that the impact of all of this on the levels of trust that exist between Council and tenants has been very serious. Here's what one of them has to say about this letter:
"After hearing tenancies are no longer to be secure under this government some long-term residents are afraid this letter is the first step in evicting them.1200 UPDATE - A Council spokesperson has been in touch to clarify what these letters are all about. Here's what the spokesman had to say:
The letter sounds to them as if some private policing is going to be done and one or two are scared they will 'have' to let the people in to their homes. It makes it sound as if this is a yearly routine whereas no-one remembers being visited before in this way. (Some have been here since the 1970's)
Meanwhile the questionnaire mentioned in the letter is a ludicrous idea... there has been one quite recently ostensibly to collect data to 'improve services in the future' so why another? Few will fill it in anyway, in spite of the derisory incentive 'prize draw'. The elderly-ish like privacy and feel intruded upon, and can you imagine anyone in an illegally occupied house or flat doing so - or perhaps a crack house occupant?
Perhaps if they want to bully people they should go the whole hog and ask CPC to provide black uniforms such as the parking attendants now have (to make them more intimidating and look like police?) Or if the 'Officers' are nice pleasant people they may well run at the first growl from some of our less sociable locals!
Ill thought-out tinkering? Or something more sinister we are all paying for... like the ludicrous 'consultation' documents we get about parking, the tram, you name it, that make no difference to anything?"
"Just to confirm, the letters are to let our residents know that we’re doing a tenancy check to see if people are unlawfully subletting. Nothing sinister at all, it’s about making sure the right people are living in our homes, and if they are not and are depriving someone on the waiting list of a home they will be evicted.
Unlawful subletting is a huge issue for all local authority landlords, it means people profit out of rent-controlled homes while taking a home away from someone on the waiting list who really needs it.
We thought it was much better to write to everyone and let them know what we are doing, rather than send people into our estates to do the checks without explanation. We know the majority of our tenants are lawfully occupying, but it is important to find those who are not.
You’re right to state that we are committed to improving housing for everyone. We’ve just completed the £232 million Decent Homes programme on time and on budget to bring every council property in the borough up to a decent standard.
To pass on information about someone you suspect of unlawful subletting call the Council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Service on 020 8753 1273 or email email@example.com"
Which all seems more than fair enough to me. Credit to the Council for responding this quickly.