Boundary disputes between neighbours are a common part of councillors’ casework, and form regular items in the postbag at Inside Croydon Towers. Poor workmanship by tradesmen is another frequent feature.
This week, though, Inside Croydon has received news of a form of legitimised vandalism by workmen in one reader’s back garden, carried out on behalf of a Croydon- based social housing association.
Alex Klaushofer, who rents out her one-bedroom flat in Crystal Palace, returned last month to find bare earth and weeds in place of the well-established plants that had grown along the garden’s north-facing fence. An olive tree in the corner was lying along the ground, while the rose bush in the far corner had been completely uprooted.
The washing line and candle holder that had been attached to the fence were lying on the ground as if they had been thrown away. She also noticed that two of the surviving plants were closer to the fence than before, indicating that she had lost several inches of her garden.
The neighbour and owner of the adjoining plot of garden told Klaushofer that the damage had come about when workers hired by housing association AmicusHorzon had replaced the fence between both their gardens and that of the adjoining property, which is owned by the housing association.
Tom Hayliar said he had witnessed the work being carried out and was shocked by the careless, aggressive behaviour of the men. “At one point the elderly bloke who seemed to be the foreman ran away,” he said. “It seemed as if they were bullying him.”
Klaushofer took photos documenting the damage and sent them to AmicusHorizon, along with details of the plants that had been damaged or destroyed.
“It was disheartening to see part of a garden I’d worked so hard on effectively trashed, but I was confident that an apology and offer of compensation to pay for new plants would be forthcoming,” she said.
But her claim was dismissed by Derek Sennett, AmicusHorizon’s head of estate services, who confirmed that the work had been carried out on the housing association’s behalf by Croydon-based contractors Chequers, but said that had not done any damage.
“Chequers have apologised for the alleged conduct of their staff,” Sennett wrote. “They’ve advised us they’ve since been dismissed and are no longer employed by Chequers Contracts Services. I’m sorry this may not be the outcome you’ve preferred, but I’m unable to offer compensation. Your compensation claim will now be closed.”
Except it is far from closed as far as Klaushofer is concerned.
She has lodged a formal complaint with the housing ombudsman, and says she was extremely disappointed by the attitude displayed by AmicusHorizon (which has recently merged with another housing group to form something that calls itself Optivo). “They’re a large social housing landlord whose stated aim is to make life better for local residents,” she said.
“Part of that is being a decent neighbour. AmicusHorizon need to take responsibility when things go wrong.”
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