Friday, 8 July 2011

Battered Tenants

Denise has a good job working for a Council. She has a council flat in another Council, and there's nothing wrong with that. She pays the bills, raises her son Jamal.

The problem is that Denise is joint tenant in her flat with her volatile brother Derick. Derick gets busted for fights in pubs, has to wear a tag. Moves his girlfriend and her 2 kids in and out of their 2 bed flat, slaps people around sometimes.

Pretty quickly Denise realises this isn't going to work. She asks to be moved. The police write a letter of support. Nothing happens. After 4 years of this her landlord suddenly moves her to a hostel, then moves her back after 3 days.

One day Derick goes for her and teen age Jamal gets in the way. Now Denise and her son sleep in a friend's living room. They've been there for 15 months. She sleeps on an air mattress so as not to spoil the sofa. Jamal is hanging on by his fingernails.

Her landlord strings her along, ignores it's policies on tenants with domestic violence issues, forces her to pay the rent arrears her brother has racked up in exchange for vague promises that never get fulfilled.

We're a charity so we help her out for free, but government cuts in family and housing legal aid mean soon we won't be able to. Soon getting civil legal aid will be like winning the lottery ticket- except that what you get may be an impersonal voice in an office across the country, where you can never look your lawyer in the face and judge the value of the advice she is giving you.

So much for protecting victims of domestic violence.

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