Update Michael Hilton

I have made a little bit more progress. I have found out who represented Mr Hilton in June. I may also have found out who will be representing him in the future. I am going to provide that latter party with some information that may help.

This case matters to me personally. I feel strongly that there should be people who stand up for this man (Mr Hilton) and support him. Everyone who falls prey to this incredibly unfair bedroom tax deserves support anyway.

For reasons of confidentiality, I don’t think I will be able to report much more from now on until Mr Hilton is released. Yes, he should be released.

I already knew who the arresting officer was, which sergeant was in charge, to which court the matter has been committed, and what the number of the court case is.

Bedroom tax causing havoc in Leicester

Originally posted on Benefit tales:

The hated bedroom tax is making its mark on the people of Leicester.

Council and housing association tenants are having to choose between “heating and eating.” A large number are experiencing poverty, anxiety, debt and health problems. Food banks are becoming essential.

As yet, no-one has lost their home because of the tax but as rent arrears increase because tenants cannot pay the £14 to £25 per week from their benefit of £70 to £100, the council and housing associations will have to start evicting.

Locally, there are more than 3,000 households affected by the tax. How many will be evicted? How will the council cope with the extra demand for housing? How much will it cost to house those in temporary accommodation?

So why will all these people be evicted? Is it because of anti-social behaviour or because they won’t pay their rent? Or because they chose to rent…

View original 238 more words

Michael Hilton: More questions than answers

Remember, this could be anyone’s son, dad, husband or uncle. Why does almost nobody give a shit? Because this is “England as usual” and almost everyone shrugs, as usual?

Or is it because people feel powerless, and are convinced that nothing they would do would make any difference? But, is that true? Isn’t shrugging a form of making way for what we don’t like, thus enabling it?

One third of the British population is living in poverty. This is a whopping number of people, people! There is strength in such a number. It means we have the power to make things better. In order to make a difference, you need at least up to 25% of people who can make that difference. We’ve crossed that threshold, but making a difference requires that we work together.

Michael Hilton deserves leniency

  • Why is Mr Hilton being held on remand? I presume that this is done on the basis of thoughts circling in police officers’ minds. They probably picture him going over to the council office or to the housing association, possibly “making a nuisance of himself” by asking about his possessions. Worse, because they deal with criminal behaviour, they expect criminal behaviour or at least “trouble”. I have seen it before.
  • If Mr Hilton is seen as presenting a danger to himself and/or others, has Mr Hilton been evaluated medically? I have seen mentioned online that he has not. If that is the case, someone has made a mistake. Several people have commented online that he had been in ill mental health for some time. This may be a euphemism for various circumstances such as “he was being bullied by neighbours and got fed up with it”, but his son appears to have said that he believes that his father is mentally unwell, too, and other than the housing association “hounding” him wanting to recover its shortfall, I have not seen any mention of anything that resembles bullying.
  • Is it true that Mr Hilton’s possessions were dumped in a skip and that neighbours made off with them? I have no confirmation of that, but it is likely. As mentioned before, that would be against the law, but it could be partly tied to the mental health issue.
  • Where is Mr Hilton being held? Nobody seems to know. The court says that it does not know and police refuses to say. I have seen “Liverpool” mentioned online.
  • Is Mr Hilton a violent criminal who is mentally accountable and can be expected to place C-4 bombs at the council offices and set the offices of the housing association on fire? Anything is possible, but it does not sound very likely.
  • Does Mr Hilton have any legal representation? I am not aware of any, paid or free.
  • Who is the CPS lawyer dealing with Mr Hilton’s case? The court does not appear to know (!) and police don’t appear to know either.

I know who the arresting officer was, which sergeant was in charge, to which court the matter has been committed, and what the number of the court case is.

Within this context, I am a Dutch citizen who is appalled about how many British citizens, and sometimes foreigners, are mistreated in the UK. The fact that someone has debts does not mean that the person ceases to be a human being and no longer has any rights. The fact that someone is ill or disabled or has a somewhat lower IQ does not allow anyone else to violate their rights either.

I wonder what Mr Hilton’s MP, Graham Jones, is doing about this mess. I wrote to him. Twice. So can you.

I should add that most of the reticence I encounter is likely related to privacy concerns, which is of course a good thing.

Anyone who has any questions or comments for me can contact me through the form below.

Help free Michael Hilton

The petition just went live. Please sign it. It helps raise and increase awareness for what is going on among one third of Britain’s population.

What happened to Mr Hilton could also happen to the other two thirds of Britain’s population, whether they are aware of it or not.

Here is the link:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/free-bedroom-tax-victim-michael-hilton-he-deserves-leniency

Michael Hilton deserves leniency

Draft petition for Mr Michael Hilton

Michelle Kent contacted me on Twitter a few days ago and sent me this link. On Sunday, Yesterday, I wrote a draft petition to drop the charges against Mr Michael Hilton, but I want to get in touch with Mr Hilton or his son Johnny before I launch the petition. His son Johnny and Mr Hilton’s sister are now aware of the petition and are fine with it. I also contacted the court to which his case has been assigned, as far as I know. I have tweaked the text a little bit more.

Below, you can read the draft.

Michael Hilton deserves leniency

 

Why is this important? Because this concerns every person living in Britain. What happened to Mr Hilton can happen to anyone in Britain, whether we’re aware of it or not.

The following took place.

Mr Hilton of Meadoway, Church in East Lancashire felt very vulnerable and grew increasingly upset when he was threatened with eviction from the home in which he’d been living for 30 years. He responded by threatening to blow up his home.

The reason for the eviction was that Mr Hilton developed rent arrears as a result of what PM David Cameron euphemistically and callously calls the withdrawal of the spare room subsidy, and what I see as an instrument of a feudal aristocracy, the so-called bedroom tax.

We all tend to assume that when someone else is threatened with eviction, the person could make this ‘go away’ if only they would act. Because we have no choice but to believe that if it happened to us, we would make it go away. Because we, we would act. That is how threatening the idea of an eviction is to most of us. Losing our home…

In reality, however, there is often very little a person can do against an eviction for arrears if the person has no money. In cases of rent arrears caused by the so-called bedroom tax, it is safe to assume that if the person was unable to do anything about the bedroom tax, he or she is equally unable to do anything about the eviction. Effectively, Mr Hilton was being threatened with homelessness after having lived in his home for 30 years.

I don’t know Mr Hilton and he may have been seriously mentally ill.

If he was merely terribly stressed, then chances are that he did not stick his head in the sand, but simply felt there was nothing he could do and was convinced that his housing association could not do anything for him either. I think that he threatened to blow up his home because he could not accept the idea that there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop the eviction.

He did not blow up anything at all, and no one got hurt. He just yelled. He was arrested because he had made many people worried which can be seen as a disturbance. He has been in custody since the beginning of June 2014. The plea hearing is set for 22 August 2014 and his trial hearing is scheduled for 12 November 2014.

A little earlier, namely in May 2014, David Garbett of Sunderland took similarly drastic steps when he chained himself and his wheelchair to the railings of Southwick JobCentre. In his case, his Employment Support Allowance had stopped which meant that he became unable to buy food and pay bills.

After he chained himself to the JobCentre, Mr Garbett’s claim was settled, and his payments were backdated. Mr Garbett was not in danger of losing his home, but he too was desperate so he did something desperate.

When austerity has already been part of your daily life for years, there is no room for more austerity.

It is believed that Mr Hilton was eligible for exemption from this wretched bedroom tax, but apparently did not know how to obtain this exemption. It is also believed that Mr Hilton had been in bad mental health for some time.

So here we have two men who apparently both had health problems. One was losing his home and spoke desperate words that others felt threatened by, but did not carry out his threats. The other one was fed up with having to go to the food bank and being unable to pay his bills and did not threaten but took desperate action.

One is now in prison and has lost his home. The other one’s claims were reinstated and backdated.

Mr Hilton – the man in prison – is a victim, not a criminal. He deserves leniency.

When bedroom tax victims are evicted

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.

homeIf 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.

No pets allowed

When you’re renting a new home and are told that your pets are not a problem, check out the rent agreement you are asked to sign.

catIf the rent agreement says that you are not allowed to keep pets, strike out the “no pets allowed” bit and use a pen to write in the margin of the agreement that you do have pets.

Then put your signature right under the words that you’ve just written. Have the landlord or letting agent put their signature there too. Do this with both copies of the agreement (the one you will have and the one that your landlord or letting agent will have).

If you do do this and there are problems of any kind later, you can prove that the landlord or letting agent allowed you to have pets (because it was put down in writing and signed by both parties) if you need to.

When I rented my first home in the UK and flew in to sign the rent agreement, the letting agents didn’t like it when I scribbled in the margin that I had pets. Hey, otherwise, I would have signed something that I knew to be untrue! I assumed that the agents had trouble finding a new renter and didn’t want the landlord to know that they’d allowed a tenant to have pets. That wasn’t the case, as I later heard and it made me think.

A little honesty can go a long way.

If you approach another person with honesty, the chance that you’ll get honesty in return is much greater.

 

Housing crisis hitting the UK

Last Friday, Metro reported that record numbers of tenant evictions are taking place. 47,220 eviction proceedings were started in the first three months of this year, Metro mentioned.

homeWhile rents continue to go up, mortgages are down, on the other hand, and an average monthly mortgage payment amount is currently lower than an average month of rent. Also, the number of repossessions because of mortgage arrears appears to have hit a low, by contrast.

There is another difference. Housing charity Shelter said that tenants can be faced with revenge evictions after they contact their landlord, their letting agent or their council about problems such as leaking roofs and mouldy walls. That’s abuse. If this is happening to you, contact your council’s tenancy relationships officer as well as Shelter for advice.

When you’re living in deplorable housing conditions, it becomes harder and harder to make a living and stay on your feet. Not only do housing problems have practical consequences that can take up a lot of time, they can also eat away at your health and peace of mind. Good landlords know that it is also in their interest to keep their property – your home – as well as you in good shape.

Letting agent receiving your housing benefits?

If your council is paying housing benefits to your letting agent, for example because you are in arrears, that makes it hard to keep track of the payments to your landlord.home

Make sure that the landlord is actually receiving your housing benefits.

There could be a hiccup in a postcode, address or a reference, which could lead to your landlord not receiving your housing benefits. If you are in arrears, this would mean that your arrears continue to grow, or become much higher than you are aware of.

Are you in such a situation? The first thing to do is simply to contact your letting agent in writing. Have the letting agent confirm to you in writing that they are receiving your housing benefits and are forwarding them to your landlord. Your local CAB may be able to guide you if you need help with this.

If the same applies to you but your landlord has meanwhile started eviction proceedings against you, do the same. Contact your letting agent in writing and have the letting agent confirm to you in writing how much housing benefits they have paid to your landlord, and when. It could help clear up errors before it’s too late.