Bad advice in a bad situation: the young mum evicted despite paying her rent
Gemma Jupe is what Fergus and Judith Wilson refer to as a “casualty” – a byproduct of their unilateral decision to evict any of their tenants who are receiving benefits.
Gemma’s story is particularly heart-rending. She broke up with her partner at the end of last March when she was just six weeks pregnant.
She moved in with her mum temporarily and a month or so later secured a place of her own, renting from Fergus Wilson.
It was only a small two bedroom house in Ashford in Kent,but Gemma really wanted to have a place of her own, somewhere to call home for her and her thee-year-old daughter, Connie. Daughter number two, Casey, arrived in November.
Nine days later one of her radiators broke down and she emailed the agent to have it fixed.
Gemma says that less than half an hour later she received a phone call from Mr Wilson telling her she’d have to arrange to get it fixed herself and then the bombshell – he wanted her out.
She appealed to him, saying she was on benefits, yes, but had never paid her rent late and had a newborn baby now too that needed looking after. But Mr Wilson wasn’t budging.
Read more on generation rent: why is it so easy to evict?
As a “favour” he said she could stay till after Christmas but then she had to go. Soon after Gemma received an official Section 21 eviction order from the letting agent.
Panicked, Gemma turned to the local council for help but short of putting her on the waiting list for a property they’ve told her there’s nothing they can do.
In fact, they’ve advised her to sit pretty and wait for Mr Wilson to take it the next step and issue her with legal proceedings, which will force her out of the property.
Gemma is only 25, with a nine-week-old baby. She’s angry and confused and doesn’t know where to turn. She knows she’ll have to go back to her mum’s place, at least for now, just to have a roof over her head. But her mum’s house is only a small three bedroom, she says, and her younger pregnant sister lives there too.
Mr Wilson says he feels bad about her situation, but as a private landlord, he says he has no duty of care to her.
Harsh as that is, legally, he’s right. Yet ironically the people with a duty of care, the council, actually appear to be giving Gemma bad advice.
Because if she waits for Mr Wilson to serve her with a legal notice of possession – to force her out – that will stay on her record in perpetuity and make it very tough for her to get another privately- rented place in the future.
So in the meantime, what does Gemma do?
Mr Wilson’s not going to change his mind and take pity on her.
He’s made a decision – a very unpopular decision – to stop leasing to tenants on benefits because more and more of them are falling into arrears.
Yet the council is telling Gemma to stay put and wait to be issued with a bit of paper that could make it virtually impossible for her to rent from a private landlord again.
Hers is an isolated story and Mr Wilson is a particularly recalcitrant landlord.
But as more and more landlords up and down the country adopt his stance – as seems to be the case – stories like Gemma’s won’t be the anomaly, but increasingly the norm.
Ashford Borough Council has been in touch to say that it has today tried to contact Miss Jupe to talk through more fully the options available to her. It emphasised that anyone threatened with homelessness should come to talk to the council as early as possible as it has “several options that may enable us to sustain the tenancy in some cases, or to find suitable accommodation for the individuals or families concerned without them having to go through the ordeal of being in temporary accommodation, which is also the least effective option for the tax payer”.
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