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News / 27 November, 2014

‘The toilet is in the shower’: vulnerable tenants in tiny £258 a week flats hit with ‘revenge evictions’

Tenants in Stoke Newington flats threatened with eviction after complaining about noise from music rehearsal studios below

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A tenant outside the Northwold Road properties. Photograph: Rob Whitson

Previously homeless tenants renting tiny studio flats above a rehearsal studio in Stoke Newington have been threatened with ‘revenge evictions’ after they complained about noise, the Hackney Citizen can reveal.

Tenants from 14 flats, some of whom were housed by a charity, are renting the seven foot by nine foot rooms at number 10 Northwold Road for £258 per week.

One of the purpose-built studios is so small that the toilet is situated inside the shower cubicle.

All the tenants are living in premises located above music rehearsal studios which the landlord and owner of the freehold, Mr Eliezer Schwarcz, also rents out from 10am until midnight daily.

One of the tenants, Ms Gail Stevens said: “The noise is so bad most nights it’s impossible … I just give up and cry myself to sleep.”

Another tenant, who wished to remain anonymous said: “Noise is a problem most days and evenings. I made informal verbal complaints about noise and the poor state of the property generally.”

But after complaining about the noise from the rehearsal studios below, residents were served with Section 21 notices and now face losing their homes just two days before Christmas.

This comes as a government-backed bill to stop revenge evictions is to be voted on in the House of Commons this week. Research by charity Shelter found that, last year alone, 213,000 people had claimed to be victims of revenge evictions.

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 requires landlords to provide tenants of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) with a minimum of two months’ notice in writing, stating that possession of the property is sought. A Section 21 notice must be served before possession order will be issued by a court.

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One of the studio flats: the toilet can be seen inside the shower. Photograph: Rob Whitson

Councillor Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing said the council was “investigating” the property at number 10. He said: “Ensuring private renters live in safe, good quality accommodation is one of our top priorities – the council has been in contact with the landlord of this property and is investigating.”

“We will continue to campaign on this issue and make the argument for better regulation, whether on retaliatory evictions or excessive fees, in London and nationally.”

Will Horwood, the Chief Executive of Two Step, the division of the charity Hope Worldwide that placed some of the tenants in the flats said that they were “at the mercy of the market”.

“We rarely find landlords willing to let a one bedroom apartment to our client group,” he said.

Mr Horwood said that Landlords typically charge the maximum Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates set for the area and accommodation type. “Unfortunately, a landlord with studio flats can charge the same LHA as a landlord with one-bedroom apartments. This is a problem with the market and means many landlords opt for studio flats.

Following the eviction notices the charity said they would no longer refer people to number 10 Northwold Road.

Mr Horwood said: “We also reassured the tenant who contacted us that we would help him find alternative accommodation if he was made homeless for reasons that weren’t his fault. The same would apply to any of our clients who are made homeless through no fault of their own.”

Hackney housing campaign group DIGs said that revenge evictions were “rife” in in the borough and across the private rental sector. A spokesperson said: “The people worst affected are the most vulnerable people at the bottom end of the market.

“Not only is this landlord exploiting homeless people, he is also rinsing thousands of pounds a week from the public purse in the form of housing benefit.

“Landlords like this are not rare. When you have a completely unregulated private rented sector like ours, when the power of landlords far outweights that of renters, people are routinely exploited.

“Revenge eviction is entirely legal. The council can do very little to protect these renters. ”

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The interior of a £258 a week studio. Photograph: Rob Whitson

One of Hackney’s MPs, Diane Abbott, is supporting the The Tenancies (Reform) Bill which proposes to stop landlords from serving a Section 21 eviction notice if their tenants have complained about a serious health hazard or repair issue.

Mr Schwarcz was contacted by the Hackney Citizen but did not respond to questions regarding the tenants’ living conditions or the eviction notices.

/ 27 November, 2014
  • Steve Fisher

    The real benefits street is probably a square of £3 mill houses in Islington full if thieving landlords.

  • Charlie

    This is catastrophically unfair. As bad as the situation at the New Era Estate is, this kind of opportunistic exploitation although less visable, is just as bad – in my view, worse. Being made to beg for the right to stay in a 258 quid dump, washing in a toilet. If you’re one of the tenants I hope you can actually get the council to stick up for you, or find some way to resist this. To make things worse I understand that even if the bill to end revenge evictions passes, because the tenants are complaining about noise rather than a specific safety hazard like a gas leak or some what not, Mr Schwarcz could still boot them out and remain within the law. But maybe someone better informed can correct me.

  • Angus

    Shouldn’t have rented a place near a rehearsal studio then. Duh!

  • Let’s hope Hackney are fully discharging its duty under s4(2) of the Housing Act 2004 and inspecting these premises.

    Perhaps Cllr Glanville will confirm. He is reported as saying, “the council has been in contact with the landlord of this property and is investigating.”

    Becasue, there is a difference between making a phone call – and having an Environmental Health Officer actually attend the premises, make observations re possible health hazards and formulating written findings in a report.

  • peter

    London is madness. I live in a 2 bed luxury flat for 550 a month outside of London and feel much better than being forced to pay double for a hole rat room there…

  • Annie

    It is a disgrace that people have to live like this and its all down to greedy landlords. It about time the government did something about it. Toilet in the shower how can that not be a health hazard.
    We are going back to Rachman times.

    http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/she-said/2014/mar/23/the-ghost-of-peter-rachman-still-stalks-the-halls-of-britains-rented-properties

  • Glyn

    Angus, did you actually *read* the article?

    ‘Previously homeless tenants’

    ‘Will Horwood, the Chief Executive of Two Step, the division of the charity Hope Worldwide that placed some of the tenants in the flats’

    Duh, indeed.

  • harry

    Hi all, I’m a tenant in one of the flats in this address,
    1. the size of the studio I live in is not bad at all, its actually much bigger then most studios I have been offered.
    2. the landlord has sent a eviction notice just as standard practice and when i called him he said he has no plan to evict me its just standard practice to serve 21 what most Landlords do so at a later point if they want the property back they don’t have to serve again and wait 2 month, most landlord serve at the same day the tenancy get singed.
    3. this Landlord is a great Landlord offering accommodation for homeless people with NO deposit and NO rent in advance, and trust me I have been looking for a long time and nobody has offered me that before, so this landlord has saved me from sleeping in the streets.
    4. people who complain about the size, Nobody has forced you to take the place, you had a viewing and had time to decide, and on top of that you got a place without paying a penny from your pocket and the landlord had to wait for your housing benefits to goes through which can take over a month, why are you now kicking your Landlord back in his face, your so WRONG.

  • John the builder

    Regardless of any other considerations, the flat shown is in contravention of the HM Govt building regulations 2000, specifically sections G4 Sanitary Conveniences and Washing Facilities referring to provision of hand washing facilities.

  • pat

    Throughout Hackney building regulations are being broken.The council are doing nothing about this even when they are informed of it.The so called enforcement team are a joke.Put this on the front page of Hackney Today.

  • Person of interest

    Harry, are you the Landlord posting?

  • Councillor Abraham Jacobson

    I am afraid the system is to blame.

    Under the poorly thought out one size fits all LHA housing benefit system, landlords if you can call them that can benefit from a guaranteed £258 per week rent.

    THIS is what sets an artificial floor in so much that private renters can not rent for cheaper than £258pw.

    NO ONE from the Council inspects ispects properties PRIOR to dolling out £1,000s in housing benefits. There is zero incentive for Landlords to improve their properties to a decent standard.

    In the UK we have a fixation on how many bedrooms there are in a property, so however tiny the rent is based on bedrooms as opposed to square metres like the rest of Europe base rents on.

    There is an alternative to the housing mess we have predominantly in the inner cities but it does not bare contemplating as it may be the shocking truth which is a sure vote loser and all politicians are scared to say.

  • Jenny

    Schwartz is a bell end

  • harry

    No im not

  • Craig

    I have lived here before the studio flats were built. The noise doesn’t come from the recording studio below. There is a massive knob head called Igor, who lives on the top floor. He is in the worst heavy metal band ever and thinks it is acceptable to blast out his awful music at any time of day. I must admit I don’t miss listening to Satan’s Little Helper or In the Event of Fire! Both diabolical pieces of music!

  • kris

    Dear Abraham

    No, it’s not the “system” – it’s the landlords.

    Mind you, I doubt most landlords would be so inspired to put a toilet in the shower.

    I’m afraid I’m with Jenny on this one. Why don’t you have the courage to call him out – rather than wringing your hands and blaming the “system”?

    I suppose we’re all still waiting to get confirmation that a Hackney Council EHO has actually left his office to go down to the flats and inspect.

    Perhaps Cllr Glanville can give us an update?

  • Councillor Abraham Jacobson

    Kris
    You are right but forget it. landlords like all businesses are out there to make money, loads of it. We are there to put safeguards into place. It wasn’t long ago when water companies would do their rounds cutting off late payers

  • Angus, I mean, my goodness!
    A tad judgemental perhaps! At best an ill educated “opinion”.
    In any event, quite amusing, the mispelt attempt to quote Homer Simpson!
    Harry! Are you sure!
    Igor!
    When shall ye three meet again?
    I think you have a real shot at forming a much more sustainable foundation for the coalition to continue.
    Keep on rockin in the free world.

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