Council's scandalous incompetence leaves vulnerable tenant facing homelessness!

Patrick, a tenant we have been organising with for the past year, is facing homelessness after disgraceful treatment by Brighton Council, who have systematically failed to carry out their most basic duties, leaving Patrick with no protection against eviction by his landlord. For details of the history of this case see here: http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/the-arrogance-continues-and-so...

During Patrick's year-long fight for his landlord to make his home a fit state to live in, he contacted the council and requested an Environmental Health inspection, which the council has a statutory duty to do.  As well as requiring the landlord to do repairs on the property, this would have given Patrick legal protection against revenge eviction, which the landlord had been attempting to conduct. However, the council's Environmental Health Officer, Martin Keane, has consistently acted in contravention of his statutory duties and legal obligations.

As a show of good faith, we gave the Council 10 working days to respond to our demand before publicising their actions (their own timescale for formal complaints), but having refused to meet even their own basic rules in this case, we are forced to make this matter public. The Council now claim that since this matter has been escalated to a stage 2 complaint, they have an extra 10 days to respond - which is nice for them, but of no help to Patrick who faces a ticking clock down to homelessness due to their actions.

To briefly recap the situation: Patrick lived in this home for 15 years. There were serious issues with damp, mould, dry rot, and collapsing ceilings. These issues were reported to the council's Private Sector Housing department in March 2018. Following this, Martin Keane visited the property and undertook an inspection, but failed to produce a written report. In spite of follow-up correspondence urging him to produce this report from both Patrick and councillor David Gibson, no report materialised.

Patrick submitted a complaint to the Council about this in August 2018.  After significant effort on the part of Patrick and Brighton Solidarity Federation to follow this complaint up, Mr Keane eventually returned to the property at the end of August to carry out a second inspection - a tacit admittance that the first visit was not written up. Following this, and again only after considerable prompting, Mr Keane issued an Improvement Notice on Patrick's landlord at the end of September 2018.

In a stunning display of – at best! – incompetent negligence, the Improvement Notice issued by Mr Keane was sent to not only the incorrect address for Patrick's landlord, but also to the wrong address for the landlord's agency Youngs. This had the effect of rendering the notice invalid. When Patrick demanded that Martin Keene re-issue the notice to the correct address, he claimed he wasn't able to do this as it would require another (that is, a third!) inspection. That is, he wouldn't reissue his own report, exactly the same, except sent to the correct address, because...well, for no explicable reason.

Patrick was therefore left without an Improvement Notice which would have been a definitive defence against the section 21 eviction notice that was served late 2018. The landlord has been able to state that he did not receive the Improvement Notice, and claim it wasn't a revenge eviction. Patrick has thus had to accept the eviction order and is left with no option to move out of the property, his home of 15 years.

At this point, we'd just like to recap, since the chain of events is so ludicrous.  First, the council's Environmental Health Officer wouldn't do an inspection without the issue being forced.  Then, he didn't do a report.  Then when he finally came back, he didn't issue another report without being pressed.  Then after all this, he managed to send the report to the wrong address.  Twice.  And finally, just to rub it in, would not reissue his own report to the correct address. Whether Chuckle Brothers style incompetence or malice, the chain of events is as unbelievable as it is disgraceful.

Now for the legal bit.  The council's failures in this situation are multiple. First, section 5(c) of The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) (England) Regulations 2005 states that an inspector must 'prepare and keep such a record in written or in electronic form'. Indeed, guidance for operation of the HHSRS states that '[t]he Regulations require an accurate record to be prepared and kept of the inspection in written or electronic form'. Mr Keane failed to do this for his first inspection, delaying remedy to Patrick's flat and meaning that he had to live in what – by the council's own later inspection and definition – were hazardous conditions. Further, this situation would have gone unresolved had Patrick not put a considerable amount of his own time and effort into pursuing Mr Keane to carry out his statutory duty.

Perhaps most damningly, when Mr Keane did finally undertake and write up the inspection, he issued it to the wrong address for both the landlord and the agent (we're sorry to say this once again, but honestly, the situation is so obscene we have to keep reiterating it!). To do it once is incompetence; to do it twice is gross negligence, and has directly resulted in Patrick's eviction from his home of 15 years.  To add to the comedy of errors, it is likely also a breach of Data Protection Law, since the first report was sent to some strangers at an incorrect address! Finally, had the notice been issued correctly and in reasonable time following the initial request, Patrick likely would never have had to address this matter in court, as it would have been clear the landlord was legally unable to issue Section 21 (a 'no fault' eviction) against him.

The facts of this situation speak for themselves, and it is for these reasons that we are fully supporting Patrick to demand that he is place on the council house waiting list in band A, and that he is compensated with the sum of £3000 for the council's negligence.

An injury to one is an injury to all!