Tuesday 20 December 2022

** Update ** Yet another Barnet tenant left in unsafe conditions due to a catastrophic failures at Barnet Homes

It is a matter of public record that I have long opposed the outsourcing of Council Housing in the Borough of Barnet to a Quango called Barnet Homes. At the time I was a member of the Hendon Labour party. When the Labour/Lib Dem adminstration of 1994-2002 proposed the creation of this organisation, I lobbied both the then leader of Barnet Council Alan Williams and the local Labour MP Andrew Dismore to oppose the scheme. Both told me that the change was necessary to secure large grants to renovate the council housing stock that the then Blair government was giving to such Quangos. For some bizarre reason I never understood, the Blairites were keen on such schemes and other catastrophic ideas such as public private partnerships.

I opposed Barnet Homes creation for three very sound reasons.

1. It would create a huge and expensive bureacracy with a highly paid boardroom, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on executive salaries that could be spent on council properties. The highest paid director earned over £200,000, which is actually higher than the CEO of Barnet Council (£194,000)

2. It would make it more difficult for councillors to get problems fixed as they wouldn't control the organisation.

3. It would provide a framework for a then future Tory administration to mold further outsourcing of public services on, which I felt (and events have shown) simply doesn't deliver value for money or decent services.

Sadly, Barnet Group has been in the news and it's not been good. Please CLICK HERE TO READ THIS STORY ON THE BBC WEBSITE about the appalling state of Barnet Group owned housing in Rockfield House.

Barnet Council published the following response to the story.

Barnet Council response to BBC London News

Published:13th December 2022

Following last night’s BBC London News story on rented properties with damp and mould which featured a block in Barnet, Deputy Leader of Barnet Council and Chair of the Housing & Growth Committee, Cllr Ross Houston said:

“We have already been in contact with residents at Rockfield House affected by damp and mould and are doing all we can to help them and to resolve the problem.

“We have also been pro-actively surveying all Barnet’s council homes so we know which properties need action, and we will be bringing that action plan to the next meeting of the Housing & Growth Committee on 17 January, early next year.

“As a new administration elected in May, ensuring residents in Barnet have healthy, affordable homes that are energy efficient and well-insulated is a key priority for us, and we are taking our responsibility to deal with damp and mould very seriously.

“After 13 years of austerity resources are scarce but we are committed to resolve severe cases of damp and mould quickly, and to make sure mild cases are dealt with and do not become severe.

“Much of the council’s housing stock is old and regeneration plans have been delayed in the past, so part of the long-term solution is to build more affordable, large family homes which we will be doing as part of our 1,000 new council homes programme.

“All of this, together with plans to retrofit and insulate homes, will take more resources than we currently have so it is crucial that central government listens to local councils and provides the necessary resources to do what needs to be done and what they are asking of us.”

With regards to this statement, I have a couple of issues. The first is with regards to "Much of the council’s housing stock is old and regeneration plans have been delayed in the past". This is a very poor response. My house was built in 1908 and has no damp. This is because it is properly maintained. Barnet Homes are obsessed with 'regeneration' but should do the basics first, which is proper maintenance of existing housing stocks.  They also said "After 13 years of austerity resources are scarce but we are committed to resolve severe cases of damp and mould quickly" . Black mould is a health risk and it should not take a BBC report to spur them into action. The "new administration" has been in place of six months. At what point are they not a "new adminstration"? 

To my horror, another resident at a different location contacted me yesterday, via an intermediary. They forwarded the following email that they had sent the council (I am respecting their privacy but I can pass on deatils for legitimate media enquiries or to any councillors who may see fit to assist)

I am writing to lodge a very strong complaint regarding the black mould and dampness at the above property.  The conditions at the property are not only unacceptable, but they also pose serious health and safety issues for myself and my family.


The property is currently uninhabitable due to the very serious health and safety issues it presents, which are extremely dangerous. The black mould and dampness are affecting the health of myself and my family, who are now suffering from breathing issues and stress. 


My family and I are now suffering from the effects of these conditions, with breathing issues and stress being just some of the problems we are facing. In particular, the mould and dampness in the property have caused respiratory problems for myself and my family.


I have five children, the eldest of whom has a disability - she suffers from Bilateral Spastic Cerebral Palsy and the youngest child is less than two years old. Additionally, I have other medical conditions including asthma, which is being exacerbated by the mould and dampness at the property.


The mould and dampness have resulted in peeling wallpaper, rotting window sills, and damaged furniture, among other things. The situation has been made even worse by the lack of action on the part of the contractors who have been assigned to address the issue. They have consistently missed appointments and have even cancelled appointments at the last minute after making us wait all day for them to arrive. This is unacceptable and has only served to worsen the situation.


As you will be aware, it is the duty of the landlord under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, section 11 to keep accommodation in good order, and under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 to keep rented accommodation free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System, introduced under the Housing Act 2004 also outlines hazards that landlords must address, and these include mould and dampness. I trust that you will take these legal obligations into consideration when addressing this situation.


I have attached pictures of the mould and dampness at the property for your reference. I urge you to take immediate action to address this situation and make the property habitable again. This is a matter of urgent concern for the health and safety of my family.  The health and safety of my family are at risk, and we cannot continue to live in these conditions.


I look forward to your prompt response and resolution to this matter.

The residents advocate also sent the following email, with four screenshots of appointments booked by Barnet Homes and subsequently cancelled. I am not at thus stage sharing these, but I have reviewed them and they are a string of booked appointments that simply didn't happen. The last on the 15th December. 

Here are the screenshots of the appointments been booked and no one turns up. only once occasion a contractor came and said they said they could not do the job and had to be sent back for a surveyor. 

I have been also been informed that one of the children 7years old and he has been getting breathing difficulties every day, especially at night. 

A Barnet Labour Councillor sent this response to the tenant on 14/12/2022

Thanks for your email and the photos of your property in W*******d Avenue. In addition to your email, I have asked for Barnet Homes to urgently investigate the issues you have highlighted and take any  necessary action.


I hope that you will receive an update shortly.

They have also included these awful pictures.

It is simply unacceptable for social housing tenants in publicly owned properties, with vulnerable children to live in these sort of conditions. Councillors are aware and we need a system where they have direct control and oversight of the housing stock. We now have a Labour Council with a large majority, so I am humbly asking them to do two things. Firstly sort out these awful conditions and secondly take control of the housing stock and manage it for the interests and benefit of residents. 

************** UPDATE 20TH DECEMBER 2022 14.30 ************
I had an update from the tenants advocate today. It is good news, which shows how effective a blog can be at gettng stuff done.

First of all, I would like to sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart for your great support with respect to this matter, 


I just wanted to give you an update regarding this issue. We had a surveyor (M*** B*******) who came in this morning and then went back and came with his manager by the name of M****** G*** (Responsive repairs manager).  They are going to wash down the mould, especially in the children's bedroom at the moment. He also suspects that they may have been some sort of leak on the roof leak which they are going to investigate. 

It doesn't adress the root cause, which is an organisation that has taken it's eye off the ball, but it is very good news for the poor tenants involved. I wish I didn't have to write blogs like this, but at least we get a positive response.


Anonymous said...

This is nothing short of shameful. It is absolutely unacceptable for people to live like this - where have Barnet Council been all this time? Who takes responsibility for this? If Barnet Homes were a private landlord, what would happen to them in a court of law?

Ben said...

a graphic description of what happens when tenants do not have a say in the management of their own homes!

Anonymous said...

Barnet Council doing what they do best, putting lives at risk and not care about other people's lives. This is unacceptable and how has it been left to reach this far

Mustafa said...

It is devastating to see pictures highlighting people’s real life living conditions in the 21st Century. These living conditions are unsafe and pose critical health issues. Barnet Homes and Barnet Council must be held accountable for this horrific abuse through neglect. They need to focus on renovating houses to promote better living conditions that put humans first, regardless of their socio-economic status.
This is a vicious cycle that impacts children’s health, education, and their future. We can no longer turn a blind eye to this issue because this problem is killing children, and it’s stripping now them off their right to a safe home.

Anonymous said...

Really shocking pictures but not suprised, I have had bad experience with barnet homes myself.

Anonymous said...

I was left with a condemned boiler for over two years, it was deemed unsafe to use due to the electrical wiring being exposed which could have killed anyone who touched it. Two independent inspections and a warning was sent to Barnet Homes and yet they did nothing. When I finally moved out and advised I had contacted a solicitor they made an appointment with a gas engineer to inspect - by that time I had moved out. I also had mould for years, I was lucky enough to get compensation due to the severity but it took years of fighting for them to take me seriously. It came back again and nothing was done. I was moved out due to the block I lived in being demolished, they also decided to not inform me of a rent underpayment when I vacated the property, instead they sent debt collector out almost 7 months later for something they could have simply informed me of when leaving. My sister is unfortunately a BH resident at present and has mould in her children’s bedroom, the same gentleman mentioned above visited but as she had cleaned it (as anyone would) they didn’t see any problems regardless of the images shown, her window was smashed by kids and yet it still isn’t repaired and she has rubbish dumped in her front garden by flytippers after she was in hospital and yet again, no help. They are absolute scum in my opinion, they claim to be ‘people centred’ they couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves. I would be ashamed to work for any corporation that allows such injustice and misery on the people that pay to live in their properties.