Last week I exposed Sanctuary Housing of their deceit and misrepresentation in charging a rent on a room that cannot possibly be a bedroom. I now go further and say that the Chief Executive should be summarily dismissed and not be allowed to resign with a large golden handshake as is the norm.
Read on and decide if you agree with me….
At the absolute minimum a bedroom is a bed-room or a room that can accommodate a bed and a room is an enclosed space accessible by a door. The picture that details all this is below and keep this in mind when reading the rest of the factual detail of this outrageous case of a claimed social landlord who knowingly and outrageously lets out a fire trap as well as deceitfully charging rent on a room that cannot be a bedroom under any circumstances.
The room measures wall to wall according to the landlord a whopping 39 square feet and according to the tenant the room measures 35 square feet of floor space. As you can see the door will not close if there is a bed in it and so this room is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE as a bedroom.
This is one example and not an unusual one either as I am aware of three entire streets in Liverpool all next to one another in which the alleged third bedroom measures less than this size in floor space and are all L-shaped too as the bulkhead of the stairs creates a box in the room. These are all former council properties and estate upon estate is littered with them as with many estates right across the country.
The problem and deceits are thus not limited to one-off examples such as this Sanctuary case and there are hundreds of thousands of rooms across social housing that have rent charged on them and also capable of receiving Housing Benefit for social landlords that simply could not be charge rent on or receive housing benefit if the landlord was a private one.
They are not bedrooms for bedroom tax purposes yet the bedroom tax is levied on them and they are also charged a rent as if they did have 3 bedrooms. As such the tenant is being shafted whether they receive Housing Benefit or not.
These properties are blatant misrepresentation by the social landlords who rent them and they must contradict some form of trading standards or advertising code or many other just and well established laws as they are chronic misrepresentations and fraudulent in lay terms.
To return to the Sanctuary Housing example above there is a lot more deceit and known and deliberate deceit by this purported social landlord, the largest Housing Association in the UK too. It is a shocking tale but again not an atypical one.
The tenant has complained about this room for over 5 years and Sanctuary has done nothing about these very legitimate complaints. The tenant has forwarded emails to me of when he contacted the Head of Community Safety and the Group Director over this from 2012.
Nothing was done about it then and nothing has been done about it since, except since I publicised this case last Monday afternoon, the tenant got a phone call from Sanctuary the very next morning making an appointment to come and see the room. Note well I only said in the original post published at 4 pm in the afternoon this was a tenant in the South West and by 10 am the next day the tenant got a phone call about it!!!!
That viewing by a new Housing Officer took place on Thursday and yesterday the tenant received a reply in writing which is below:
Quite what a “household dynamic” is and what relevance it has to renting out a cupboard as a purported bedroom is lost on me reader yet as you can see Sanctuary are not having any of it at all. Yes that is the same Sanctuary Housing and purported charitable organisation whose Chief Executive David Bennett pocketed a cool £300,000 + in wages back in 2012/13 and it is clear from the correspondence I have seen that he knew of this case back in 2012 and he did absolutely bugger all about this deceit then or since.
Yet the email correspondence – a complaint by the tenant – is also very very revealing indeed as to how the UK’s largest housing association treats what it calls its valued customers!
The background from the tenant 2012 email:
…we took this house on unseen, due to when we came to look at it (we travelled down the full length of the country from Cumbria) there was ice on the roads and we were quoted health and safety, so staff could not leave the office. However we took it on under the understanding that it was a three bedroom house, which we were told it was. We moved in on a Sunday morning so it was not until the following Monday that our housing officer at the time came out for us to sign the paper work.
The complaint continues to explain what happened when the Housing Officer came out:
…when she saw the size of the room in question she stated that had she seen it previously she would not have let us take the house on, as it was not a third bedroom but a small nursery room. She even stated that she would be putting a note on file to say as much, however I have since done a subject access request and note that as is the norm with your organisation what is said and what is actually done is two different things and this note/ letter was either never wrote or never actually put on file.
Well we all let things slip our minds don’t we…er…
The complaint continues in this letter :
The room is so small that you cannot put a normal single bed in the room and be able to close the door, the bed frame sticks 6 to 7 inch over the door way (although we have had to as there is no other option) this not only stops our daughter from having any privacy at all (our youngest sleeps in the room) but is also a major fire risk, should there be a fire in there is no way our daughter could shut her bedroom door to protect herself. Now this matter has been brought up with a great many people in Sanctuary over the last two years with every one promising to look at the situation, but as usual nothing being done.
Yes this 2012 letter reveals the tenant had been complaining for two years and so ever since he began occupying the property and some 6 years later Sanctuary has still done nothing about it and have no intention of doing anything about it either as the letter dated 7 April 2016 reveals!
Sanctuary Housing is very happy to continue with this deceit and also happy to see their ‘customer’ shafted by the bedroom tax too – though the tenant tells me today he did have a nice call from the local councils HB team who had seen the post and picture and who said put this in writing to me as this is not a bedroom and we will review the bedroom tax decision post haste.
Back to the 2012 email complaint reader, to be precise the 6th of June 2012 to the Head of Community Safety at Sanctuary who is apparently ok with a child having a huge fire risk due to the door not able to be closed and hold back a fire and all due to Sanctuary’s intransigence and deceit in saying this room is a bedroom.
The complaint from 2012 goes on:
During a meeting with our housing officer and also a senior member of the Torbay team at our house (approx 2 months ago) I brought up this matter yet again and requested that the property be re assessed and re classified as a 2 bedroom plus nursery and not the so called 3 bedroom we were conned / deceived into taking on over 2 years ago. They promised to look at the situation and were both shown just how small the room actually was, they also both agreed it should be classed as a nursery due to its size and the way a single bed came over the door frame.
So did this meeting in April 2012 produce anything you ask?
After having to chase this matter up a couple of times I eventually got a phone call to say a meeting had been held but that my request for re assessment and re classification had been refused, however I was also told that they had agreed that once the house had been re let … then it would be re let as a 2 bed with nursery and not a 3 bed as it is now
So way back in 2012 Sanctuary admit the property only has 2 bedrooms yet flatly refuse to do anything about it! Yes that would be the same Sanctuary Housing Association, the largest of its kind in the UK that constantly says it has a social mission and social ethos and calls its tenants customers – oh and who pay their Chief Executive Officer, David Bennett over £300,000 per year and who have a Head of Community Safety who thinks it is acceptable for a young child to have a massive fire risk!
But of course all the above must be a figment of my imagination reader as Sanctuary Housing are a wonderful and responsible landlord as they tell us so on their website:
Corporate Social responsibility is not just a corporate phrase; it’s the way Sanctuary has been doing business for the last 40 years. We are committed to running our business in an ethical and socially responsible way to ensure we contribute positively to the neighbourhoods we work in.
An ethical and socially responsible way David Bennett? Oh sorry you are very socially focused I do apologise as you say:
Our residents play a vital role in helping us shape the way we work by challenging our performance and making suggestions about how we can improve.
Shaping the way you work to deceit and ignoring you tenants? Oh I see your abject deceitful performance and inaction is your tenants fault you mean? Yes that would make sense!!!
What’s that you say?
Our Group Board is committed to effective leadership and controlling the organisation and supporting residents to shape and scrutinise the services we provide
You are responsive and scrutinised by tenants! So that includes ignoring them for 6 years then while you carry on with shameful outrageous deceit!
Sorry I am merely quoting from your sanitised website that is unfair and I should really be quoting what you have said about this matter to give balance as I have quoted what the tenant has said 4 years ago.
When I stated in the original post last week that you had changed this property from a 2 bed to a 3 bed we see the following response from your Director of Housing from an email correspondence sent to me:
As you can see somebody (whom I genuinely do not know but have anonymised their name even though they said I could use it) emailed David Bennett over my post and received the above reply from the head of housing at Sanctuary ( A flea in ear from Chief Executive Davis Bennett anyone?)
John Hanson promised to look at this – well the bedroom tax aspect but not the huge deceit in charging a rent on a room of this dimension – and yes this is the same room that the tenant has been in correspondence with for over 5 years at the most senior level!
The same person then sent back this response:
Of course as explained above Sanctuary Housing not only knew of the area in which this property was located they knew precisely and immediately which property it was as it has been across the desks of every senior director including the Chief Executive for years – and done bugger all about it
I do love the ‘has rarely proved a successful form of legal defence’ though to be fair it was only 2009 when Sanctuary took over the stock from Riviera – only a mere 7 years years ago reader!
Perhaps the fact that the tenants relationship broke down a few months back and so his daughter moved out with his ex partner is what the latest missive from Sanctuary means – the “household dynamic” term means well as your daughter is no longer there then there is no risk of her being ravaged by a fire that we allowed for 5 years so we are not changing our deceitful classification now of what the property actually is and always has been?
General and wider issues
A private landlord is not allowed to charge a rent on a bedroom that is less than 50 square feet – yet a social landlord can and they do in their hundreds of thousands.
Put another way a social landlord is allowed to charge Housing Benefit on such a tiny room as they are not scrutinised or assessed and a social landlord is believed to be truthful; yet a private landlord is unable to charge housing benefit, is scrutinised and has the property assessed and is deemed to be untruthful from the get go. In short, the rules on private landlords are right and the rules for social (sic) landlords are wrong – and they need to be changed immediately.
The recent Upper Tribunal decision to say that a bedroom – for housing benefit purposes in the bedroom tax – needs to see a room large enough to accommodate a standard adult size single bed, a bedside cabinet, the storage of clothes and free floor space in which to get dressed and undressed mean that a bedroom by virtue of size needs to be at least 65.81 square feet in floor space, which is the minimum desirable size of almost 100 years ago!
There is an immediate need for government to say that a room in order to be classified as a bedroom for both housing benefit (HB or LHA) receipt and for the charging of rent to be at least this 65 square feet.
It simply cannot be right or permissible for allegedly social landlords to charge a rent and also expose the most vulnerable tenants to bedroom tax and indeed fire hazard on the deceit – and there is no other word for it – of claiming that these rooms are indeed bedrooms.
Social tenants are being overcharged by social landlords. The public purse is being overcharged by social landlords … and worst of all social landlords such as Sanctuary in the above example have done both of these while knowingly renting a room and property they know to be an acute fire hazard as they can get away with it because they are not scrutinised.
Social landlords trade on the basis they are holier than thou and constantly refer to and highlight the often appalling practices of some private landlords. In the main they are better landlords yet they are also guilty of some outrageous practices such as the above case and these cases are becoming prevalent with housing associations seeking to become private landlords.
It could be just that outrageous practice is more widely disseminated due to social media and here we see that within an hour of my releasing the original post that it has been read at the highest levels within Sanctuary.
I have no problem at all with naming and shaming social landlords if they shaft the vulnerable tenant and my Twitter profile has always said this
I hate ANY vulnerable people being shafted by ANY incompetent government or by landlords private or SOCIAL. Aside from my personal abhorrence of anyone getting shafted this is also professionally ingrained from working in supported housing for over 20 years; that tiny 5% or so niche within social housing that is about people and not about bricks and mortar as the other 95% or so or purportedly social housing is.
I will and have praised social landlords, the real social landlords who do support their tenants and who do operate good and best practice. It is only correct that I highlight the increasing bad and outrageous practice in order to eradicate it and to bring these asocial, unethical and downright deceitful practices to an end.
The above is not some nostalgic view of what social housing was or should be, nor it is naive in denying that there are far greater financial pressures on social landlords to be more and more competitive and commercially focused as that is the context of social housing today.
This is all about bad practice and the simply wrong and discriminatory starting points that a social landlord should be trusted when the private landlord is not when it comes to the payment of public funds such as housing benefit. That manifests in vulnerable tenants getting shafted and apathy from local council HB departments in scrutinising the bad practice of social landlords.
This government and all others expect to be paying out for a product and service that is what it says it is and not something way below that such as a claimed bedroom, whether by virtue of size of fit for purpose, which reveal these deceits of not being a bedroom and not being what they claim to be from unscrutinised and non-assessed social landlords.
Social landlords have been in receipt of positive discrimination for decades and they have been overcharging tenants and the taxpayer for decades too by basing their rent levels on the number of alleged bedrooms they themselves declare and without any scrutiny by decision makes in local government as to whether these claimed bedrooms are in fact bedrooms or not.
There is an argument that social landlords are the biggest benefit fraudsters in history and with some validity as they have been charging the taxpayer for a 3 bed rent level on hundreds of thousands of 2 bed properties. The same overcharging has occurred to self-paying social tenants who do not claim housing benefit – and both have to stop and immediately.
The bedroom tax with its focus on what is and is not a bedroom has brought these matters to the top of the agenda and emphasised these long-standing deceits of rent and HB levels charged.
Government would save far more in housing benefit if they defined a bedroom for renting purposes a minimum size and made social landlords attest that each room they claim to be a bedroom meets this minimum criterion of overall floor size.
Government has a duty to protect the public purse of which they are guardians and also to prevent tenants being ripped off which they are – government of all political persuasions not just this current one which is hell bent on destroying the social housing model.
It is time, in fact way overdue, to stop social tenants being shafted by landlords who claim deceitfully to be social landlords and have a social ethos when as the Sanctuary example above shows they are not.
Quick update – I have removed most references to the £300k+ paid to David Bennett as if he was paid £30 per year or £30 million per year the outrageous inactions and deceits are still the same.