Pay the rent or we take the kids – yes KHT are at it again

Back in November 2013 I posted the Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT) letter which said pay your rent or we will get social services to take the kids – or in essence that is what it said and it was interpreted that way.

It was copied, shared, retweeted in huge numbers and rightly was met with universal condemnation and even was called demanding money with menaces by one legal commentator.

Well guess what reader – the same KHT are doing it again as a letter dated 30th September 2014 has just come into my possession and is below

kht pay or kids 2

This is even worse that the first letter which is here as that was sent at bailiff stage at the end of the eviction process.

Yet the letter above says social services will come and take the kids even BEFORE a Notice of Seeking Possession has  been served at the start of the process.

I am not and have no need to say how outrageous this is and rather lets do something about this collectively to stop this utterly disgraceful practice right now.

The letter has Bob Taylor’s name on the bottom as Chief Executive and the buck stops with him so he deserves the outrage and anger directed at him via any form of communication you can muster.

Once was an outrageous mistake a second occasion and even before a NSP has been issued is a mistake too far.

It is scandalous and heads must roll for this.

I would also invite legal opinion here as to whether this is demanding money with menaces or any other legal issue as this disgraceful practice has to stop and stop immediately

UPDATE SATURDAY 4th OCTOBER

The last time this happened in November 2013 KHT issued a news release on its website saying, or at least trying to say that this letter was merely unfortunately worded and the Director of Assets saying it won’t happen again – the usual qualified type of apology made when extremely poor practice has been found out in other words

kht1 apology

Ian Thomson, Director of Assets now needs to be asked, as does Chief Executive Bob Taylor how this assurance has clearly been breached and kHT is outrageously sending out such letters still.  And note well here reader that this tenant has yet to be issued with a Notice of Seeking Possession (NSP) which is right at the start of any eviction process.

Also note too that KHT have a protocol with Knowsley Borough Councils Social Services Childrens Team over social services involvement.

kht 2 flowchart protocol

The flowchart above which is part of this protocol shows the current position when this outrageous letter was sent and also in red when “Notification to CSC (Child Social Care?) is made.  You can see clearly that KHT are fully in breach of this protocol.

This is also confirmed in the wording of what this protocol says:

kht protocol

Note that firstly the NSP has to be served.  Then the tenant is given 4 weeks to get in touch or not. Then if still no response in a further 7 days the tenant will be notified with the social services will come and take the kids threat.

Yet KHT has issued this disgraceful letter way ahead of the moot protocol they have signed with the council and so are unambiguously in breach of it.

Or, reader, KHT is scaring the sh*t out of all tenants deliberately and knowingly demanding money with menaces as a matter of policy for ALL tenants and doing so whenever the hell they like regardless of the protocol they have entered into with the council!

When they first did this back in November 2013, it coincided with North Ayrshire Council sending a similar letter which was sent after a NSP had been served.  The KHT letter 1 was sent right at the end of the eviction process just ahead of seeking a bailiffs warrant, and in part, more justifiable as it was assumed that many previous letters and communications and indeed chances had been given to the tenant beforehand.

Yet here in KHT 2 letter a NSP has not even been serves and the eviction process has not even started.

This is why the KHT2 letter is especially outrageous and especially scandalous AND sent after KHT Directors said this would not happen again AND in breach of the protocol they have with social services at the council.

Now every social landlord is going to get labelled like KHT with this one extraordinarily bad apple syndrome and this becomes a problem for EVERY social landlord.  Note too the timing as in the North West where KHT operate direct payment of housing benefit to tenants not to the landlord is rolling out right now.  What a truly mindblowingly stupid letter this is from KHT pissing off its tenants just as tenants take control of the payment of rent.  What sheer incompetence this is!  Yet the repercussions of this will NOT be limited to KHT as all social tenants will see this and wonder if their landlord is practising such vile practices and threatening their fellow tenants with taking the kids off them.

This is a matter for EVERY social landlord – and yes KHT clearly do not understand what the word ‘social’ means – right across the country.  This is a matter for the entire sector and not just KHT and nearby landlords in the North West.

This, for me, has to be either a resigning or sacking matter for senior KHT staff and I mean very, very senior staff at the highest level for all the above reasons.

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30 thoughts on “Pay the rent or we take the kids – yes KHT are at it again

  1. What can you say. but, totally outrageous. Where’s the help? The advice on appealing. The claiming a DHP? This could send someone completely over the edge. How do these people sleep at night? It needs a full investigation, that’s for sure. Who’s the MP? Joe

  2. i am fluffin fuming here do you know when i got threatened with evition and had sent me a letter telling me 7 day to pay or eviction ,he visited my home unannounced so i kept him on the step ,while he was telling me what was goin to happen i couldnt help it honestly and within mins he was saying i wouldnt worry to much about this they have no smaller homes to give you.what a turn around .theyre majkin up the rules as they go along but if i agree to move me i can only have a 1 bedroom bungalow or ground floor flat so were do i put my 2 main carers as my sister stay 2 nights a week ????????xx

  3. They have gone too far this time. They have already apologised once and done the same again but earlier in the process.
    This poor girl is terrified and hasn’t slept worrying she is going to lose her kids.

  4. I worked for an agency in their repairs call centre for a few weeks. I’ve worked for a few councils and housing associations and found the culture in this organisation to be odious at best. Managers are prepared to lie to get their own way and save face.

    I find that my current landlord, Cobalt Housing, are far more in touch with reality and really seem to care. It can be done.

  5. And involving social services will cost the government and local council more money than the rent arrears owed! Wheres the offers and options of help from housing? What is going on in this country? Are “they” trying to frighten people to death, anyone who is struggling and in a depressed state of mind (and lets face it who isnt ) this letter could certainly push them over the edge!!
    Whoever penned this letter with its underlying threats needs to revisit the way its worded!

  6. I’m probably going to be the only person here that thinks that the action was the right thing to do.

    Consider …

    The person concerns owes rent – and probably considerable amounts if it has got to this stage. KHT is saying that they will inform social services.

    This is a very long way from them saying “……..WE will take your kids”. They are not saying that at all. You have the freedom to interpret it that way but for what it’s worth, such interpretation is warped.

    Firstly, it may well be, that informing Social Services may get a referral to another agency that could help in paying the outstanding rent.

    Lastly and I think this is most important. If they are looking at eviction, then KHT would be negligent if they DIDN’t inform social services if it placed the child(ren) at risk.

    Unless of course you are arguing that there should NEVER be any evictions whatsoever.

    If you believe that then you’ve got to say who is going to fund it.

  7. Playing Devils advocate here — Thank the lord I’m not the only one that read this and the previous letter as you did Leonard Payne, As a group Admin on several Facebook groups and one of the largest Bedroom Tax groups I read, absorb and sometimes comment upon them, BUT more and more now were getting severely warped views, total untruths and at worst scaremongering, which is helping nobody, If let’s say this particular tenant WAS evicted wouldn’t they be pleased that IF the circumstances warrantied it of course that the children were at least going to be safe and NOT put through the often terrible conditions with-in many homeless accommodation units up and down the country (having been through this route twice, I am in fact able to comment firsthand on the conditions in some and I was in two of Glasgow’s VERY BEST offerings, so I’m told !!! certainly the areas using it are the affluent suburbs of Glasgow, I may add with the highest council tax in Scotland currently payable, and I went through them with early onset MS and in my (24 hr care a 3.5yr old child the first time and the same child who was nearly nine the second time who by then was my sole carer, the second time we did a whopping TWO YEARS to the day almost before being housed,but that’s a whole different story for another day when it’s perhaps more apt) however my point was that I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy go through what I have, and I can confirm SS was not by a LONG way the worst in any such instances I have been involved in (having fought and ultimately won two custody cases I have had extensive contact with ALL child services) I read this letter as simply warning what non payment could ultimately lead too if the current account is NOT brought up to date PDQ.
    What’s the alternative they demand their rightfully sought arrears, and don’t warn what could happen? what then I concur they are in a NO win situation here, it could possibly have been written better but I like Leonard and I don’t doubt others who won’t speak up for fear of the usual backlash for doing so, well don’t worry Leonard and I will do it for you !!
    At the end of the day are we not ALWAYS better forewarned – I vote we are !!

  8. I also have a case where a letter was sent with this statement and I too was concerned, even though the tenant did not have children. Though it may not be directly saying ‘we will take your kids’, we all know that a social services referral and assessment can mean they come in and take a look at your whole life. Great alarm can be caused by social services for the pettiest of things and they have enormous power over your life under the threat of taking your children (I know of absolute horror stories). There will be vulnerable parents where taking their children will be threatened or actually carried out (depends on their age!), not for rent arrears and eviction, but for lifestyle choice. I agree that at eviction stage it may be appropriate in some cases for a referral to be made and this should be worded very delicately, but in most cases it is not needed – direct help and support is what is needed. In any event, the Council are under a legal duty to rehouse a person who becomes homeless with children so, really, is there any need to involve Social Services except in the most extreme cases. To have a general, badly worded statement in a letter from a landlord is alarming and worrying at a time when the tenant does not need it. It has been insensitively done and I really do have concern about the person who wrote it and, further, those who sanctioned its use. At all costs, most parents will stay well away from Social Services (though admittedly they do some great work under difficult circumstances) because once you are in the system it is difficult to get out of and it is difficult to get children back – the system, the power of SS and the secrecy of the courts can destroy parents and childrens lives, not protect them. I have not seen this statement from any other landlord I have to deal with – speaks loads about the attitude of KHT (as a supposed social landlord and charity!) towards its tenants in dire financial hardship. What could be worse than losing the roof over your head? Losing your home and being referred to Social Services. When are they going to learn?

  9. The protocol or the threat of social services taking the kids is very beneficial to the council. Playing on the fears that Jeanette rightly outlines means less cost for the council social services as tenants pay rent (via Wonga?) rather than have SSDs snoop into every aspect of their life. I havent downplayed this in the above and MBC Knowsley have a key part to play here in this type of letter – hey lets persuade the HA to use this as they get more money and we have less cost – and that factor needs to be considered in the argument of is such a letter right or not.

    Yet the Wonga / payday lender / doorstep lender factor means that when tenants do borrow to pay from such sources they will eventually be evicted anyway because of this debt leading to non rent payment and have a GREATER change of losing the kids into care!!!

    However when tenants receive such threatening demands with menaces and the perception that pay or lose the kids and then pay from the Wonga et al source they place their children in much greater risk of being taken into care. The actions of KHT and MBC Knowsley in this incredibly short-sighted ‘partnership’ leads to greater arrears for landlord and greater cost to council.

    Try seeing what is right under your nose!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. have to say that when my family were made homeless 8 years ago due to neighbours attacking i was walking the streets during the day and not knowing if we had somewhere to sleep at night with my 1 yr old son and my older two children visiting relatives so i had less of a worry about them, but i went to social services and explained my situation and was actually told they could not help me in any way, my husband was still working as if nothing had happened and his family locally did nothing but leave me and the 1 yr old out in the cold at the end of October, so to say that these parents would lose their children if they were made homeless is a push but i could see how upset it could make parents who dont know the situation with the uncaring and underfunded social services,

  11. Whomever said above that “a council” must rehouse where there are children involved as far as I know (and have personally seen and been personally involved with in my own situation as a single note MALE parent in the late 80’s when I was one of very few male single parents) in my experience this IS NOT THE CASE as in the case of eviction for non payment of rent (which BT forms part of, after all) not paying your rent is a breach of contract, that is the legal contract you sign at start of tenancy, in that you promise to pay x amount on x day of the month, and if it’s not paid a breach has been caused which allows the landlord to evict, in the case of re-housing, too being made homeless in these extreme circumstances to the best of my knowledge on the subject is that many WOULDNT later it’s true Re-house as it would be seen as self inflicted and thus NOT the landlords position to re house in such situations, so please DONT be depending upon this fact as it seems to vary in what area you live and whom your landlord happens to be, which is a picture starting to be at last coloured in as to whom is the worst all in all……………………

    As for the initial post, in some cases it’s clear that the children would be far better off if they were in care, when you see how some poor kids are dragged up in the first instance and again it seems to be postcode related what help in terms of SS and/or Landlords, my current one simply hasn’t a clue I’m afraid. in re-reading the letter I agree they were harsh but still think possibly mis-guided they were possibly trying to help, by drawing attention to the fact it Is a destinct possibility this could be the end result of not paying BT as BT is part of your rent, which obviously when you sign a lease your signing to say you will pay X @ month if in breach by not paying your landlord can and often shall do as this letter threatens that’s the harsh reality whether rightly or wrongly this landlord is willing to stick its head out and point it out.

    1. It was myself who said it was the responsibility of the Council to rehouse tenants with children who face eviction. Lets face it, very few tenants are evicted without breaching the tenancy agreement in some way and, it is true, that some Authorities will try to say ‘you have made yourself intentionally homeless and we therefore do not owe you a duty to rehouse’ – but I feel they could be seriously challenged on that and especially so for non-payment of bedroom tax due to poverty!. At that point, the Council would probably make a referral to Social Services anway and they would have to cover the cost of accommodation. Since they are all part of the same Council, both parties are likely to act in tandem to get emergency accommodation. Further, most tenants who have breached their tenancy on rent arrears, signed their tenancy agreement prior to the bedroom tax regulations coming into force, and did not anticipate they would have to contribute towards their rent. A person living on minimum subsisdence levels of income can hardly be blamed if they get into arrears – the Government has put them there and the landlords do little to help – just barrage them with phone calls and letters – they act like bailiffs. Many Councils do not advertise the availability of DHP to cover the BT shortfall or lay down ridiculous requirements to meet the criteria for an award (Lancaster Council goes out of its way to stop people applying for a DHP and sends the money back to the Government). If landlords have done everything possible (and I mean, practical help in applying for financial help) and the case is still reaching eviction, then I agree that a decision about a referral to Social Services may be necessary (depends on circumstances of case). They don’t have to put it in a letter to be able to do this if they feel a child is at risk, but to have it as a standard term in letters is entirely unacceptable – what possible justification can they have for putting it there except to make people sit up and pay their arrears because of a veiled threat to the security of their children. How low can this social landlord (and supposed charity) go? They are not really interested in the risk to the children or they wouldn’t be taking court action for sums under £300 (plus adding £250 court costs onto tenants already in poverty and preventing people getting social housing in future) – they just want their rent by any means. The furore raised by Joe is necessary because KHT have a tendency to do their own thing regardless of the impact on vulnerable tenants. Maybe, they will now listen to us advocates working in the community who witness the hardships and have to pick up the pieces of the actions they take.

      1. Jeanette, landlords like KHT are going to get the biggest kick in their arse pocket (as we say in these parts) when HB is paid direct to KHT tenants. Then instead of demanding money with menaces as they are now, they will be hoping and begging and pleading with tenants to pay the rent. The direct payment pilots showed TEN TIMES more rent went unpaid and KHT tenants will massively de-prioritise paying rent because of such hostile and offensive practices KHT are using now. So as well as being hostile and offensive KHT are being bloody stupid in a business sense and their reputation is in the gutter – and that is their own fault. So aside from the offensive nature it is truly incompetent practice and KHT cant see further than the end of their nose (whether its in the trough or not!)

  12. Oh, and just to add, apart from children who are in fear of violence, cruelty and extreme neglect, they are never better off being under Child Services. Being parted from a parent (even an abusing one) and being placed with strangers is deeply traumatic for a child, though sometimes necessary. But, never is it okay to make a referral to Social Services just because a person cannot afford to pay their rent – a situation they have been forced into by Government Policy. It should never reach a point where people need to be evicted and where it does, I feel it is the failure of the landlord to engage with the tenant. If they amend their actions from threats to help and compassion, they may get a different result from the tenant. That is not to say that tenants do not have individual responsibility over their lives, but most tenants are not reckless to losing their homes (one of the worst things that can ever happen to a person), they likely have a myriad of problems such as sickness, disability, learning difficulties, mental health problems etc – it is up to the landlord to find out where they are getting no response. However, this is often not the case because it is easier for the landlord to harangue the tenant, make threats and rush to court action in an effort to maximise their rental income, whatever the consequences. Sorry if I am being rather direct, but I see, and clear up, the mess created by SOME landlords because they lack empathy.

    1. …and KHTs practices will end up costing Knowsley MBC more in social services and encourage the Wonga brigade for tenants – EVERYONE LOSES through this incompetence

  13. @Jeanette Traynor – I wholly agree with some of your points and whilst some of the tenants falling into arrears solely due to BT may not be responsible for it rather government policies have been, how is it some equally financially challenged tenants can manage to pay it whilst others can’t ans ultimately require to then go on to cost ALL services a fortune in trying to clear up both the councils and the tenants resulting “mess” at whatever cost that concludes at, where as IF the tenant was warned where this could all ultimately result they may look elsewhere for help themselves and solve the issue for themselves prior to it going that far? I simply question that ALL in this severe position either in Knowlsley or elsewhere is there in a greater part from their own actions than anyone else’s where also rent or other funds have also not been paid? I have been that tenant twice homeless, twice through dirty drink & drug fuelled hostels with my child in arms and I’ve been the one advising guiding and helping folk out of the mess they are in so I can imagine quite well many scenarios and remain of the opinion that forewarned must be a better course for any eventuality, as to the question of how the offending letter was written and indeed if it was even their position to be the one warning I’m not entirely sure, but fail to see how warning folks worse scenario this is what could be the outcome is wrong !!! Given the above senario or circumstances

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