Seven Stories from the SHARP Casebook

In our Casebook all the stories are real, but the names are not. SHARP is famous for its free, confidential, expert Housing Advice.

Case A

We received an enquiry from a family of five that were temporarily housed with a social landlord. Family consisted of Mum, Dad and 3 children under the age of 10. All three children had learning disabilities, 2 children had eye impairment and could not see long distances and had a patch over 1 eye. The baby was still in a pram and the mother had a heart condition. The property had 3 flights of stairs to the families’ accommodation. There were drug users in the communal area and crowds of youths congregated in the children’s communal play area. The family had been in the accommodation for 3 years before they approached SHARP.

On enquiry the social landlord stated they would not be able to house the family in permanent suitable accommodation as they deemed the family to be currently adequately housed, and stated that in a few years’ time the children would be able to walk up the stairs confidently by themselves and the baby would be in a push chair, not a pram, which would make negotiating the stairs easier.

When SHARP challenged this decision, the social landlord refused to take into consideration that the needs of the family should be based on the problems being experienced now, not in a few years’ time when the children are older. Given this lack of understanding and refusal to move the family. SHARP complained on the families’ behalf to The Ombudsman, who found this to be incorrect and that they should indeed consider the needs of the family as of now.

The Ombudsmen upheld the complaint. The social landlord had to place the family in Band 1, the highest priority band for rehousing and pay £3,000 compensation to our clients for the stress and inconvenience caused.

Case B

We received an enquiry from a social worker who wanted housing support for her client Ms Sarah Brown who was living in a hostel and was expecting a baby. Due to past serious anti-social behaviour problems and high rent arrears with Leicester City Council, due to excessive drug and alcohol use, Sarah Brown was banned from applying for housing for 5 years. She had also had her 5 other children taken into care by Social Services. Social Services wanted to give Sarah Brown a last chance and asked the Family Court to consider allowing her to keep the baby once it was born as their client was no longer on drugs and alcohol.

Once the baby was born, and placed with temporary foster carers, SHARP was asked to attend the Family Court to give an account of how we would help with future housing, which we did. SHARP stated it would help her clear her arrears, look for private rented accommodation and provide help with the deposit. The Family Court was satisfied with this explanation of the help that SHARP was able to offer. SHARP helped to clear most of the arrears which had arisen due to a Housing Benefit error and managed to secure a private rented property for the client with all of the deposit paid.

Sarah Brown now has her baby with her and lives in her own one bedroomed flat.

Case C

Joyce was a woman aged 50 who arrived at our offices one morning with all her possessions in two suitcases. She had been living in a garage in Bristol for 6 months but had then come to Leicester. She had been staying with a friend in Leicester for 4 months, but her friend’s son had returned home and there was no longer room for her. She had literally nowhere to go. SHARP found some immediate accommodation where Joyce could stay that night. Working in conjunction with another local charity SHARP then organised for this temporary arrangement to be extended. Simultaneously SHARP contacted a local housing association and made a referral. Our contact at the housing association had a bedsit on the second floor in a block of flats available. SHARP helped Joyce to collect all the documentation needed by the Housing Association and arranged for her to view the property. By doing this, we were able to secure the accommodation for her and prevent her from becoming homeless again.

Case D

Mary is in her nineties. She approached SHARP with the help of her relative, a niece in Australia. Mary had been living quite happily in an alms house flat in Leicester for some years but with increasing frailty she was coming under more and more pressure to move out. Mary is almost blind and was deemed by the management of the alms houses to be “A risk to herself and others”. A short stay in hospital had resulted in the locks to her flat door being changed. Her nephew had stayed overnight in her flat on his way from Australia to visit her, giving other residents a scare because they didn’t recognise him and despite his protestation’s management had decided to change the locks. Marys’ cooker had been disconnected because the management had decided she was too frail to cook. Mary was feeling increasingly persecuted and unhappy.

SHARP approached a contact at John Woolman House in Leicester and arranged for Mary to view the scheme. The scheme is managed by Nottingham Community Housing Association who merged with Leicester Quaker Housing Association. A volunteer picked Mary up, drove her to the scheme and drove her back home. Mary is now a tenant at John Woolman House and is very happy there.

Case E

SHARP recently represented at the Leicester County Court a client facing eviction via the accelerated possession procedure. This procedure allows for rapid ‘no fault’ evictions under the provisions of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.  We established that what the landlord had referred to as a payment of “rent on account” was in fact an unprotected deposit. The claim for possession was thrown out by the Court on the grounds that an unprotected deposit invalidated the claim. To make use of Section 21 Landlords are required to place all tenant deposits into an approved deposit protection scheme. As result of being represented by a SHARP housing advice caseworker the tenant is still in occupation of the property.

Case F

SHARP’s housing advice caseworker worked on behalf of a vulnerable Housing Association tenant who had broken the terms of a court order for repaying rent arrears and faced eviction. Our caseworker helped the tenant to apply to a charitable trust for a grant to help pay the rent arrears and negotiated a new repayment schedule with the housing provider. And as a result of this intervention by SHARP the tenant was saved from eviction.

Case G

A single mother with a young son who has severe renal failure requiring regular dialysis approached SHARP for help. The family had received an eviction notice from the landlord who claimed they were in arrears. The family was registered with the Council for accommodation, but the lack of available, suitably adapted properties meant that nothing could be found for them. SHARP identified two reasons why the notice was invalid, and that the rent account was actually in credit by £3,500 due to errors in the landlord’s rent accounting. SHARP liaised with the landlord without success and worked with the client to maximise their chances of being allocated a house by getting the Council to allow them to be considered for 2 and 3 bedroomed properties where previously they had been restricted to 2 bedroomed properties. SHARP also liaised with health and social care services to gather further information regarding the son’s disabilities. SHARP attended Court and made a successful application to get the claim for possession struck out. SHARP also negotiated the repayment by the landlord of the £3500 overpayment made by the client. As a result of this work, the client and her severely disabled son were able to stay in their property until 5 months later, when they were fortunate enough to be allocated an adapted council property.