HACKNEY ARTISTS ARE FORCED TO EVICT THE COUNCIL PROPERTY WHEN THEY REPORTED NEGLECT & DISREPAIR
We recently found 2015 September Building Survey of this property that was submitted recently with a planning application by Hackney Council.
You can read it on this link; there are remarks about asbestos , rot, structural issues. Hackney Council signed the agreement with Global Guardians Management on August 2015 so they were aware about the true state of the property which does not look safe in the 2015 Building Survey. But they went ahead with it and prioritize financial income over Health & Safety. And they hid the true state of the property from us. Why did the Council consciously choose to go into an agreement with Global Guardians Management although they had the 2015 September Building Survey? It was reported on the news - published on The Guardian- that the tender was awarded to Global Guardians Management.
So far several surveyor told us; The property fails PAT Testing, has asbestos. Also besides the faulty signal on the screen of the fire alarm panel, the fire extinguishers were outdated. The property has never had a fire assembly point although this was brought up with Global Guardians Management.
We requested the copy of the recent Building Survey which was done by Mr. Strange from Mobius Building Consultancy on 22 September 2021 for Hackney Council. Chris Pritchard from Hackney Council told us, on 3rd December 2021, that he will ask his team to share the survey with us but they are still not sharing it although we made several requests. After the heavy flooding of the property, Gurpaje Singh sent the joists for checking but still they have not shared the outcome with us.
On the first week of March 2021, we learned that the Global Guardians Management has not been paying the electricity bill since March 2020. We learned when British Gas representative came in the property to disconnect/cut the electricity ( they did not disconnect as we live here and our housemate still recovering from COVID)
As Hackney Council did not provide a response to our Freedom of Information Requests which included our requests to see the Health& Safety survey and documents from 2015 and on. We shared our concerns with ICO. Hackney Council still did provided response in allowed time by ICO; a decision notice was published that Hackney Council breached section 10 of FOIA.
The council still did not answer our Health and Safety related questions ( which were requested in August)
Q4-) I want to receive a copy of all the survey reports that were done before this property was let for dwelling purposes in 2015 including FSRA( fire Safety Risk Assessment) for HMO, Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), Portable Appliances Testing (PAT), Gas Safety Certificate, Emergency Lighting Testing, AFD Automatic Fire Detection Testing, HMO Compliance Report.
The information you have requested above is stored on different systems. The Council holds a significant amount of data relating to the property and extracting the information requested from the various systems is a time intensive exercise. We would therefore welcome the opportunity to invite you to attend a video meeting with a council representative, so they can show you the various records you have requested to see for the building. An officer will be in contact with you before 19th February to arrange an appropriate date and time.
Please note: The gas at the property has been capped off. As such, there will have been no requirement for a Gas Safety certificate.
Please note: There is no HMO compliance report.
If the cannot provide those documents in 6 months. Are they inviting us for a video meeting that will last over 6 months? The Council representative's name and department was not even provided. We responded by requesting the copies the documents and surveys. No one contacted us on 19th February or after.
We are all artists ( musicians, filmmakers, art directors, stage managers ) and a psychology student living at a guardianship property on Mare Street since 2015. Our professions have been hugely affected by the pandemic.
This Mare Street property is owned by the Hackney Council and managed by Global Guardians Management (GGM). The rooms were advertised on Spareroom.co.uk for 600GBP per room/per month. There are 10 rooms (HMO) in the property. (On Property Protection Proposal by GGM to Hackney Council, it writes that the council gets the %20 share of the guardians monthly fees; as a result property guardians pay the rent, GGM receives 4800GBP a month and Hackney Council received 1200GBP a month.) In total, they earned 288000GBP rent income from this property.
Hackney Council's recent response to Freedom of Information Question
Q5. I would like to know how much of the earned income from this property was used for its maintenance and repair in each year; 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.
The income earned from this property has not been used to repair and maintain the property.
When I first moved in the property in 2016, the property shook when a heavy vehicle passes by. The first time it happened , I thought it was an earthquake. When I asked, GGM representative told me this is normal as the property has wooden structure.
In 2017, our property was flooded. The water damage caused mold in my room which I treated and painted. It was attended in a few weeks and we were told the gutters were clogged at the time.
In 2020, we had a longer list of ongoing neglect and in July 2020, during the time of pandemic, our property was flooded. We immediately reported it to Global Guardians Management. The plugs , electric cables were all immersed in water. Also the floorboards were covered by puddles which we cleaned it with mops, towels, buckets..etc. We shared our concerns with the council.
In August, the problem was still not fixed and the water leak from the roof flooded the whole property which -again-posed a threat to life as electric cables were immersed in water and the ceiling tiles on the ground floor fell, the water was dripping through the bulb holders. The water flooding did not only damaged the property but also our stuff ( we did not receive any compensation for the damages) but an NTQ( Notice-to-Quit) -in-two-day letter from GGM solicitor was served.
Videos and photos of the flooding and the state of the property can be seen in the below link;
We reported again this ongoing flooding problem which kept posing threat-to-life problem. We reported the disrepair and we were served a two-day Notice to Quit by GGM instead of fixing the problem and the solicitors' letter wrote that the property is unsafe. This increased our worries and we invited impartial surveyors; the result was the property was not compliant with HMO regulations and Fire Safety Regulations.
We came across GGM's name in some articles ( which can be found on news section) where it was reported that some properties did/does not meet the requirements; In Southwark News, it was writes "While the council said the building is not fit for housing, it is allowing property guardians to live there" (https://www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/property-guardianship-southwark-council-nunhead/) ;
In September, Hackney Council representative G. S. met us to discuss the situation and we requested to see for all the surveys and reports from him.
On 28 October 2020 evening, we found some parcels left at a desk in the property, addressed to our names ( it was not sent via post nor email for defense) that we have to attend a court hearing on 2 November 2020 for eviction notice. The possession order claim does not include any information about the disrepair or the property being unsafe. Why this is not mentioned by the GGM solicitor in the possessions claim form?
We have never had general heating in the property but we had oil radiators in our rooms defined as "allocated space" on our contracts.
Since 2015, we have never had heating in our bathroom, toilet or kitchen. When we demanded it, we were told for health & safety reasons, we cannot have heating in the kitchen or bathroom/toilet or the communal areas.
We have never had a fire assembly point.
We don't have installed fire/smoke alarm within our rooms "allocated space".
We have been reporting maintenance and repair needs to the management company but our demands were neglected.
Our shower has been tripping the electricity after 5 minutes of shower. We had to go down to the main switch to the electric box to switch it back on. This has been a huge hazard we have reported many times in writing and verbally. It was never fixed.
In summer, our property, rooms were flooded several times due to roof leak. The damage also affected the electrical wiring. This was the tipping point for all of us as we reported the whole situation to the council.
The guardians, we, caught an offender with a bunch of keys while trying to break into one of the rooms in June 2020. We reported to the police and then we asked GGM for the front door lock to be replaced. GGM did not change the front door lock.
After months of neglect of flooding from the roof, when we confronted the situation and brought it to the attention of the authorities, suddenly we were given an eviction notice of 2 days ( by GGM's solicitor)- which was impossible to move out at this situation and at the time of pandemic-. We found out that all property guardians are protected by The Protection from Eviction Act 1977. We were also told by the police ( when we reported the whole situation) that there is a ban on evictions due to pandemic.
While renting the rooms, the property guardians were not asked to provide DBS check.
The property has never been professionally cleaned since 2015, even after we reported rat infestation, it was not cleaned.
We documented it all, and we were told by the authorities that the property does not comply with HMO standards but also it is not compliant with RRO-2005 (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005)
We found out ( have physical proof) that GGM sent private agreements to third parties without consent which is a breach of privacy.
We clearly informed The Hackney Council about all of this. We observed that the Hackney Council's financial agreement with GGM stops the council from doing their job on enforcing the rules and regulations of Health & Safety. Instead of helping the residents who have been living at the property in a long-term, they do not act transparent and forces us to move out without providing a concrete evidence of its reasons.
On 3 September 2019, Hackney Gazette reported that "Hackney Council takes legal action against landlords for breaching conditions of new HMO licences".
What about the HMO situation at this Mare Street property? Hackney Council confirmed in writing that the property does not have an HMO license. Why The council does not apply these stated above actions to the Property Management Companies ? This property must have been compliant with HMO regulations.
Although Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, referred the situation to Hackney Council's Corporate Assets Management Team to provide us support and solution, the representative Gurpaje Singh chooses to be in touch with GGM and talks to us through them. It has been a month, G.S has not responded my information request email.
My email to Gurpaje Singh includes the below questions;
.....Your actions feel more supportive of GGM but I would expect Hackney Council to be impartial on such a situation that poses a threat to life. There may be a commercial agreement with GGM but Hackney Council must still remain impartial as this is a situation about the Health & Safety of Hackney residents.
Also please acknowledge the article 7.2 of the agreement where it says "This agreement will come to an end if GGM's own permission to use the property is terminated." As you mentioned in the meeting that you officially sent an email to GGM on 20th August at 13:20 that Council rescinded the property, which was confirmed on 21st August by an email of GGM staff, so our agreement came to an end with GGM on 20th August 13:20. Why do you still try to refer us to GGM? According to what clause in your contract do you feel the need to report the situation at this property to GGM ?( please refer below topics 6 & 7 in the below paragraph).
According to the assessments, this property is not compliant with HMO regulations and fire safety regulations. Our lives were put in danger during the flooding and before ( due to shower tripping electricity from the main switch). My agreement with GGM was shared with a third party( have evidence) .
In terms of transparency, I want to see the contract between Hackney Council and GGM to have a grasp of the liabilities. Government website writes "In addition to the legislative requirements, there are policy commitments to publish the associated tender and contract documents in full on Contracts Finder." Is the council excluded from this? I cannot find the tender nor the contract published online that is mentioned in the below article published.
In this 2015 article, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/dec/24/the-high-price-of-cheap-living-how-the-property-guardianship-dream-soured
; it writes " ... Camelot insists that the decision to put the contract out to tender was not caused by those complaints, and says it doesn’t recognise the allegations. Hackney Council declined to comment on specifics, but added that it “reviews contracts regularly to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place”.
When the council put the contract out to tender, the winners were Global Guardians, a north London-based agency whose successful bid offered Hackney a cut of the profit as part of the deal. Global’s price hike was massive: the cost of one room was due to double from £310 to £700 a month.Global Guardians defend themselves by arguing that they will be investing significantly in the property. And they have confirmed that under the new contract, Hackney will receive a share of the licence fee revenue..."
I want transparency, honesty, truth and justice. And I think I made it clear enough that I am not going to give up on seeking justice. Therefore,
1-) As a person whose life was put in danger while living here, I demand to see the 2015 dated contract between Hackney Council and GGM .
2-) I want to see the tender that is mentioned in the above 2015 Guardian article. A tender cannot be confidential. I cannot find it listed online.
3-) I want to receive a copy of the "change of use" documents.
4-) I want to receive a copy of all the survey reports that were done before this property was let for dwelling purposes in 2015 including FSRA( fire Safety Risk Assessment) for HMO, Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), Portable Appliances Testing (PAT), Gas Safety Certificate, Emergency Lighting Testing, AFD Automatic Fire Detection Testing, HMO Compliance Report.
5-) I want to see the copies of all the reports/surveys of this property since 2015.
5-) I would like to know how much of the earned income from this property was used for its maintenance and repair in each year; 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018,2019,2020.
6-) Just a quick note about the email we received from GGM about B(contract-construction company); That is absolutely false representation of Property guardians who live here ( in legal terms I would define it as slander. I have no tolerance for such behaviour- especially under these circumstances)The rear door is always open and there is security who lets the people inside. We have never had an issue like this since the beginning we have been living here, we are all welcoming people. A guardian called me on that Friday to point out the two men in the garden and if I know anything about it. I looked from my window and the men were in the garden, the younger one was taking photos of the small locked shed in the garden. I went to say "hello and introduced myself and tried to understand why they were taking photos of the locked shed in the garden". What I would question here would be, why B(contract-construction company) staff were told not to talk to the guardians but to call D. When I was trying to understand who D. was, it turned out to be D.from GGM. The older man told the younger man that they were leaving. Nothing stopped them to do the work they came to do and they were never anywhere near the entrance door to the property.You told us that an official email was sent to GGM that Hackney Council rescinded the property on 20 August 2020 at 13:20 and GGM staff email confirms that,too. Why was B(contract-construction company) told not to talk to us? This is so rude and disrespectful, especially under these circumstances. Why do you still keep referring us to GGM? What was so secretive about B(contract-construction company)'s task on that day? And because of B(contract-construction company)'s behaviour, I am also now questioning, if there anything hazardous in that shed. I demand transparency in Hackney Council's actions. "
We requested and demanded to see the surveys/ assessments that are done before this property was advertised for rent. Even FOI ( Freedom of Information)requests to Hackney Council are still not answered, it has been more than 30 days.
The Hackney Council mentioned about major works will be done at the property but does not disclose what needs to be done/will be done. They fixed the roof recently since mid-October 2020, there is no flooding in the rooms since then. The news reporting of a possible lockdown and the council asking Mare Street artists to move out without providing a concrete reason. Why?
Has this property ever been fit for habitation or were the property guardians we used as a source of income by GGM and the Hackney Council at a property that poses threat to health & safety?
We have already started the official complains procedure.
Through our experience, we found out that the rules and regulations for the health&safety and legal rights of the property guardians needs to be improved. The whole property guardianship scheme can be improved.
We will be sharing the updates of our situation here. We have also compiled some useful information on this website so that it can become a "guidebook" for the property guardians as well.
Also we created a survey to hear from more property guardians; your experiences and thoughts will help to make the scheme work better for all.
If you wish to contact us, please email email@example.com