Last September, the Independent reported that about 50,000 people – mostly disabled – were being threatened with eviction on account of the so-called bedroom tax (a cut in the benefits of those people who need support most, generally). Someone just alerted me to this post about the eviction of Michael Hilton in East Lancashire.
If this account of events is accurate and fairly complete, a violation of the Interference with Good Act 1977 occurred in this case, and under circumstances that I find repugnant.
The Lancashire Telegraph also reported on this eviction but did not mention the destruction of Mr Hilton’s belongings. I hope that the ‘rifling’ through the skip was done by caring neighbours who tried to salvage some of Mr Hilton’s possessions, if they were indeed disposed of instantly.
To me, the ‘bedroom tax’ sounds like an instrument fitting for a feudal aristocracy as those who are affected by it are often unable to change their circumstances in such a way that they can avoid it. There is an almost feudal relationship between those who impose this astonishingly ridiculous and cruel ‘bedroom tax’ (the government) and the affected persons, but that is not what this post is about.
It is not necessarily true that tenants who appear to ignore eviction notices are burying their heads in the sand. The real reason can be that there is simply very little such tenants can do. There is a general misconception among the public – including police – that tenants who receive an eviction notice can make this ‘go away’ if only they will act.
There is no magical solution called ‘help’ out there. Many councils are unable to do anything for tenants threatened with eviction. The councils can rehouse some of the most vulnerable people, but that appears to be relatively rare. I think it is a fair assumption that anyone who is unable to escape the bedroom tax is equally unable to do something about a subsequent eviction.
The idea of eviction makes most people feel so extremely vulnerable that they distance themselves from other people’s evictions by telling themselves that eviction could never happen to them. They, after all, would act if it ever happened to them. That assumption is wrong. Eviction can happen to anyone. If it were to happen to you, you might find yourself just as powerless and just as distraught as Mr Hilton, certainly if you’d been living in your home as long as Mr Hilton had. 30 years.
In all fairness, Hyndburn Homes appears to be trying to do what it can, but it is a bit hard to tell from a distance. I am finding them very communicative, though, and that is usually a good sign. I have asked for concrete examples of solutions Hyndburn Homes finds together with tenants. Seeing what is possible might help diminish the number of tenants who seemingly refuse offers of support and ‘choose not to work with’ housing associations.
When you’re very stressed, which is almost always the case when you’re about to be kicked out of your home, it becomes very hard to see solutions. All you likely still see is a giant wall of problems closing in on you. I too would like to know what solutions housing associations are able to offer. Because many people – tenants and housing associations alike – need that inspiration.