Tomorrow, at around 11.30am, a widow and her five school-aged children seem likely to be rendered homeless, as bailiffs will be knocking on the door of their home in Benson Road to demand that they leave.
The eviction is being carried out, it is alleged, because the tenants had the audacity to get the landlords to carry out repairs and improvements to the property, which was previously in “an atrocious condition”.
Zaib U Nisa’s rent has been paid up-to-date. She has the backing and support of her next-door neighbour, and friends have offered to act as guarantors for the £1,400 monthly rent on the property.
But her landlords, through property managers at a Croydon branch of the estate agents Choices, seem determined to kick the family out.
The Nisa family will then have to be re-housed by Croydon Council. It is what is known as a “no fault eviction”, but for landlords who can get rid of good, reliable tenants almost on a whim, it is a no risk eviction.
The entirely avoidable situation has brought together an unlikely meeting of minds in the Nisas’ local MP, Croydon South Conservative Chris Philp, and the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
The issue of no fault evictions in private sector residential properties which have Assured Shorthold leases is a growing problem and Corbyn took up the issue last year. Such evictions are allowed in respect of Assured Shorthold residential tenancies by using the currently permitted Section 21 procedure which can be initiated after only six months of a tenancy.
In an interview with The Independent in December, the Labour leader pledged to stop “no fault” evictions.
Corbyn said, “The stress levels on people concerned is incredible. I get it all the time from constituents because one-third of my constituents are private renters.
“I am very determined to bring some order and stability to their lives by longer tenancies and eviction that can only be there for good reason, rather than just what can be retaliatory eviction.”
And at the weekend, the MP for the area, Philp, took up the Nisas’ case.
“The situation,” Philp wrote in a letter to a neighbour, “is absolutely appalling.
“I will do everything I can to help at such a difficult time.”
Philp, along with the Labour councillors in Waddon ward, have alerted the council to the situation, and the likelihood of another six people being added to the mounting homeless tally that Croydon must accommodate.
The three-bedroom house was first rented to the family in November 2016. It is owned by a Coulsdon couple, David and Alison Dumba.
But just a month after they moved into the house, Nisa’s husband, Sain Bibi, died. That left the family without their main income, in a property which needed a lot of work to make it a decent place for people to live.
The repair work was overseen by the Dumbas’ property agents only after Croydon Council threatened to issue a formal notice.
“After the work was completed, the response from Choices and the Dumbas was to issue possession notices,” according to a friend of the family.
“They are being evicted for no reason.”
The friend describes the landlords’ decision to evict as “cynical”.
According to an expert in housing law, had Croydon Council actually issued the formal notice to the landlords and their agents, instead of just threatening to do so, then the tenants would have enjoyed a legal protection which will have avoided their eviction.
While there was a couple of weeks’ rent unpaid – amounting to £575 – the family had agreed to settle that immediately.
“A substantial lease guarantor has been offered if the family are allowed to stay in the property, but Choices and the Dumbas are adamant that they should be evicted and made homeless,” the family friend said.
“The family are recipients of Universal Credit and the mother as well as the 17-year-old eldest child have part-time cleaning jobs. Croydon is a UC trial area and there were initial problems with payments to the family, but these have been resolved.
“Unfortunately private landlords are very wary about accepting families on UC as new tenants, even with a guarantor being offered as in this case. It has therefore proved impossible to rehouse the family in the private sector.”
Inside Croydon contacted the landlord for a comment. They had not responded by the time of publication.
But Stephanie Prior, a director of Choices based in Redhill, did reply, issuing a threat of legal action against this website: “I know where you are getting your information from and I have to tell you it is flawed and untrue and you should take care and perhaps take independent legal advice before continuing.”
Prior refused to answer our question about whether the eviction of a widow and her children would be going ahead tomorrow as planned.
- Updated at 3pm to add paragraph on the council’s formal notice, and to include a comment from Stephanie Prior of Choices
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